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Basic Requirements for a Valid Pocatello Last Will and Testament

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

If you are reading this article it is because you are interested in understanding what it is you need to do in order to have a valid last will and testament. This makes you a special person, because only about ¼ of all adults ever consider getting their estate planning documents completed while they are alive. While a complete estate plan includes not only a last will and testament, but also a durable power of attorney, a living will, a power of attorney for health care, and possibly trusts and other estate planning documents, the focus of this article is only on the will and the requirements that must be met in order for a will to be valid under Idaho law.

For over 70 years, our premier team of Pocatello estate planning attorneys have assisted clients in creating their valid last will and testament as part of their estate plan. The lawyers on our team consists of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nathan Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of the estate planning lawyers on our team have received the highest ratings for their ethics and legal abilities in helping their clients reach their goals.

It’s important to note that we do not use a cookie cutter approach when we create a last will and testament for our clients. We find that our clients are each individual and unique and as a result their last will and testament should meet their own specific circumstances including their family members and loved ones. To help you get started in creating your own customized last will and testament here are some basic things that you should know and understand.

Identifying the People

The first place to start when it comes to creating a valid last will and testament is to consider the people that will be included in this document. There are really two groups of people that you will be identifying. The first group of people are those that are called “beneficiaries”. These people are the ones that will actually be receiving your money, property, and other assets after you pass away. There is no law that requires that any specific person be your beneficiary. You are free to choose your beneficiaries from your family, loved ones, and other people that you know. Additionally, a beneficiary could also be a charity rather than a live person. The point is, the choice is up to you as to who you name as your beneficiaries.

The second main group of people are those you are naming to receive an appointment from you. These could include identifying and nominating who your personal representative will be. It could also include individuals who might be named as guardians of your young children. Additionally, an appointment could include naming a trustee to a trust that is created through your last will and testament. All of these individuals are being appointed to fulfill some specific role that you are identifying in your last will and testament. As a result, you should spend some time pondering and considering who you should name to these appointments. Additionally, we usually suggest that you name your first choice and that you also have at least one and preferably two other individuals named as successors if your first choice can’t or won’t do what you ask.

While these are the main groups of people there may also be other people that you need to identify. For instance, if there is a family member that you specifically want to disinherit, you will need to name that individual directly and identify the fact that you are providing no distributions to this particular individual. Additionally, you may want to name professionals such as accountants or attorneys who you have worked with as a suggestion that your family continue to work with these individuals while your estate is being distributed. Finally, you may also want to list in your will the names of service providers that you have engaged to take care of certain things for you such as your cremation, or funeral.

Identifying the Property

In order for your last will and testament to be valid the next most important thing you need to do is to identify what exactly belongs in your estate. In other words, you have the ability to be very specific in giving gifts to specific individuals if you choose. However, this can only be accomplished if you provide specific details about the property and who it is to be given to.

You also have the ability to identify groups of individuals that will receive types of property. For instance, you can state in your last will and testament that all of your “personal property” goes to either a specific individual or to a group of individuals. By using this term you are identifying a type of property that you are giving away to others.

Your last will and testament will likely include a residual clause. This is a fancy legal term that lawyers used to mean that whatever you haven’t already given away, or whatever else is included in your estate that you haven’t specifically mentioned in your will, will also be given through your will based on your instructions.

By being specific in identifying the property that you own, and who you want that property to go to it is most likely that your intent will be carried out. If there is any ambiguity about what it is you are wanting to be done, or in identifying any property that you own, it’s possible that your intentions may not be carried out. For this reason, we advise our clients to provide specific easy to understand details.

Satisfying the Legal Requirements

Satisfying the legal requirements in order for your last will and testament to be valid is really not that difficult when you have a qualified estate planning attorney helping you. A formal written will prepared by an attorney will meet all the legal requirements under Idaho law in order for your last will and testament to be valid. This may not be true if you prepare your own last will and testament or if you use a form or an online service to get it done. The reason for this is that not all forms or services follow and satisfy the specific requirements listed under Idaho law. For this reason, we always encourage our clients to meet with a qualified estate planning attorney in getting their estate planning done.

Enlist a Pocatello Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Pocatello lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation. You can also email us directly at We will answer your questions and help you solve your Pocatello Estate Planning problems.

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