How Heartland Trust enables Jon Benson to live his passion in serving the community
Anyone who has the privilege of meeting Jon Benson, Vice President and Director of Business Development of Heartland Trust Company knows that he’s someone who cares very deeply about people and helps them navigate family and financial challenges, far beyond standard expectations. Jon is one of those down-to-earth individuals who is truly passionate about helping people and extends himself in ways that help make both him and Heartland a couple of the most trusted names in the community. I had the privilege of sitting down with Jon to discuss more about his vocation, and how his role at Heartland Trust is making a lasting impact on lives here in the Fargo-Moorhead community.
Jon first got the opportunity to join Heartland Trust Company in 2014 through his involvement in the community, serving on the board for a number of nonprofits. “One of the things that really enticed me about joining Heartland was that I found it was an organization that allowed me to care to the level that I thought was necessary to provide the best experiences for our clients,” Jon said. “It also gave me the freedom to go beyond the traditional limitations that you find with other financial institutions. That’s allowed me to step in and be that trusted voice on many other levels from our clients that you don’t always get the opportunity to be a part of.”
For Jon, it’s all about how he can provide his service on a daily basis because, given the nature of his role, the most important thing going on in his clients’ lives at that particular time is that conversation or phone call they are having with him—and it’s his goal to show his clients he is invested in helping them navigate whatever challenges they’re facing.
“Personally, I don’t look at what I do here as a job, I look at it as a calling,” Jon said. “I love what I do each and every day.” The opportunities that Heartland Trust provides, unlike other institutions that he’s experienced, is that they’re looking for reasons to do things rather than reasons not to. While for some organizations it may be easy to say no, Jon believes that’s what he’s called to do—saying ‘yes’ more and helping people find a way
Jon is often referred to as a sort of charismatic ambassador for Heartland Trust; being a trusted voice no matter what the circumstances might be for the client. He even took the time to further invest in himself and became a Certified Farm Succession Planner through the North Dakota Extension Office, allowing him to be a greater resource to Heartland Trust clients in the farming community.
Moorhead, MN, native Jon Benson has been with Heartland Trust Company in October for 9 years. He has over 32 years of comprehensive personal, business, and financial services experience. He is married to his wonderful wife of over 20 years Jessica and has two children, Gabe and Nora. He is proud to watch them compete on golf courses and soccer fields all over the country.
The Concordia College alumn has an impressive resume, having previously worked as a Vice President and Private Banking Relationship Manager with Wells Fargo and as the Executive Director of the Essentia Health Regional Foundation.
At Heartland Trust, Jon works closely with his clients and nonprofit foundations in the areas of personal trust administration, IRA rollovers, investments, charitable trusts, asset management, and financial and estate planning. He also holds a certification as a Farm Succession Planner.
Jon is active in the community serving as the past President of the Board for Hospice of the Red River Valley, Past President of the Board for Connections, Board Member for the FM Rotary Foundation, Past President of Moorhead Rotary, Past President and Treasurer of his church council, Student Mentor for the Professional Guide program with Concordia College, Confirmation mentor and as volunteer youth coach.
Another major reason why Jon loves Heartland Trust’s approach as a trust company is that they’re able to put the management of all legacy and family assets under one single umbrella. Especially for farm families and succession planning, Heartland Trust can help manage anything from stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and money market to farmland or real estate within the confines of a single trust company that normally you wouldn’t be able to hold with other financial institutions.
At Heartland Trust, clients are able to have a main contact and team that is knowledgeable about all aspects of their financial life and can be that conduit from one generation to the next.
“We actually even go so far as to review the assets that we don’t have any responsibility over,” Jon said. “When I bring clients in, when we talk about holistic care, we’re reviewing life insurance policies, reviewing the titling of outside assets and accounts and CDs and bank accounts, looking at life insurance beneficiaries, and we’re looking at IRA beneficiaries making sure that you have that one individual who has done their due diligence across all spectrums of their financial life—nobody likes surprises.”
Federal Estate Tax Exemption to “sunset” at the end of 2025
One major thing Jon wants to bring attention to looking ahead is the Federal Estate Tax Exemption, which is something Heartland Trust is aware of and helping families prepare for and know what steps to take. In short, the current tax exemption is at an all-time high of $12.92 million, but could soon be reduced by nearly half to $7 million in 2026. While that may seem a ways off, Jon and Heartland Trust are there to help clients navigate the changes to make the best decisions for their families.
3 Things Heartland Trust Does Differently
1: More responsive
“Heartland Trust is very proud of the level of personalized care we can provide, especially being a smaller organization with a different business model than the large banking institutions.”
2: More personalized care
“Heartland Trust’s dedication is to look for reasons to do things and how to get things done. Our team of Trust Officers, includes Missy Zarak, Jen Johnston, Jan Nelson and I. We know and understand the laws, the ruls and are willing to work with our clients to find ways to accomplish their goals and not try to fit them into a template or box.”
3: They go the extra mile
“Our team at Heartland Trust has a willingness to step up and help at any level. Our phones are answered by a person. There is no ‘press one for Jon.”
Why I Love Heartland Trust
Commentary from Jon Benson
I am very fortunate and proud to work with such a talented and dedicated team. We are supported by local family ownership and decision-making that empowers us to do the right thing. Our founder Steve Halverson’s guiding values or sayings is if it was your mom, what would you do?
The very best advice I could give to the readers is to give us a call. Don’t procrastinate another day. Life happens in the blink of an eye, care for your loved ones by asking questions, talk openly about your family’s challenges, dreams, and wishes, and make a plan.
I have been honored to present informational and educational presentations on wills, trusts, and estates at a number of seminars and farm expos, shared insights and experiences on regional farm radio, served as a mediator to fractioning farm family members, and provided guidance, advocacy, and planning to families and farming operations large and small.
The coffee is always on and the questions are always welcome. Each family situation is unique and your succession and estate plans need to be customized to your unique situation that aligns with your family’s goals, values, and wishes
Heartland Trust provides clients with the service and solutions they expect and deserve. We are honored to help those families entrusted to our care in any way they deem beneficial.
An overwhelming majority of our clients come as referrals from estate and planning attorneys who know firsthand our personalized level of care, the court system who also recognize our ability to handle difficult and challenging family situations, and our wonderful clients who tell their friends and neighbors, you need to talk to Heartland Trust, they will take care of you.
Each and every experience we have adds to our knowledge and ability to care for the next client.
Client Testimonial: Carla
Carla is the daughter of new clients struggling to manage their farm and finances, with her dad in the nursing home for the past 10 years, a sister and her son who are struggling with addiction, and money mismanagement issues, and her mom left to trying to manage their family farm of over 1500 acres all by herself. The stress on her mom has forced her to be hospitalized numerous times over the past couple of years.
Carla and her mom went to meet with Susan Johnson Drenth, JD Legal after not getting the help they needed from two other law offices. Carla was especially complimentary of the kind words that Susan Johnson Drenth, JD Legal said about why they needed to go see Jon at Heartland Trust Company. “Heartland does an excellent job. They are very responsive to clients’ individual needs and can provide you with the solutions, protections, and peace of mind you need,” they said.
Every time she brought up a current family problem or challenge, Jon responded with, “I can take care of that for you.” Carla responded in tears, not due to sadness, but because she was finding hope. “I am just so overwhelmed, these are tears of joy,” she said.