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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

I’ve said it many times but as an estate planning attorney I firmly believe that every person can benefit from having an estate plan completed. It doesn’t matter whether you are old and a millionaire, or young and penniless. Every person can be protected by and can benefit from having a complete plan in place.

A basic estate planning includes a written last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, a power of attorney for health care, and a living will. It may also include one or more trusts depending on the circumstances of yourself, your family, and your loved ones.

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

The title of this article is an apt question that I’m often asked by clients. But usually the question is asked in a different way. Usually the question is posed as “Do I need a will?”

The fact is that almost everyone should have a written last will and testament as part of their basic estate plan. This basic estate plan should also include a durable power of attorney, a power of attorney for health care, a living will, and perhaps one or more trusts depending on the circumstances of the individual.

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Being a huge Marvel Comics fan, I was saddened to hear of the death of Chadwick Boseman. Boseman played the character Black Panther in the Marvel movie world. He was a gifted actor and with the stories that are now coming out he also appears to have been a caring and generous human being as well.

However, despite being larger than life, I was stunned, and somewhat amazed, to learn that Boseman died without having a written last will and testament. The star’s widow, Taylor Ledward, filed probate documents in California asking to be appointed as the administrator of Boseman’s estate. Under California law, Ledward was required to file the documents in probate court specifically because Boseman didn’t leave a written will.

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Whenever a client consults with me after a family member or loved one has passed away, one of the first questions I always ask is whether there was a written last will and testament. The reason for this, is that a written will can control a number of things that happen after a person passes away. For sake of simplicity, we will mention only two in this article.

The first thing that a will controls is who will be named or listed as the personal representative of the estate. Some people call this person the executor. This individual will be appointed by the court as the personal representative through a probate process. Once this happens, the person who is named as the personal representative has legal authority to take control of all the property of the estate, deal with all the creditors of the decedent, and make all the distributions that need to go to the beneficiaries.

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

When I meet a person for the first time and mention that I’m an estate planning attorney they usually respond by saying that they’ve been meaning to get their Will done for some time. This is a common response, and an interesting one. I find that most people don’t understand estate planning and believe it is only focused on who gets their money, property, and other assets after they die. In other words, most people believe that estate planning is focused only on death. This isn’t true!

Whenever I meet with a new client to discuss estate planning, I always start the meeting by focusing on how estate planning can help protect and provide for my client while they are alive. I leave the discussions about Wills, and giving gifts after they die, to the very end of the meeting. The reason I do this is because I tell my clients. The most important part of estate planning is helping them while they are alive.

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Life is a wonderful thing, but it also brings many challenges. One of the great things about being an estate planning attorney is that it gives me the ability and the opportunity to look at life from a different perspective. By representing clients through numerous probates, and in the creation of their estate plans, I have been given an opportunity to look at the lives of many different individuals. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from this experience is that life is always changing.

In other words, as the years roll by, your relationships with people change, where you live may change, the people you are around changes, and the property that you own also changes. In other words, life is not static, and change is the very essence of life.

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As with many professions and situations the world of estate planning and probate is filled with many technical terms, steps that need to be completed, and processes that need to be followed, in order for everything to be done right. Having been an estate planning attorney now for over 20 years I understand that my clients will not have the same understanding, knowledge, and experience that I have. The good news is, I use all of these things to benefit and help my clients in every situation they bring to me and with every question they need to have answered.

One of the questions that came up recently from a client was whether an “ancillary probate” needed to be done as part of the administration of their deceased parent’s estate. First of all, I was impressed that my client knew the term “ancillary probate” and was able to ask this specific question. After reviewing the situation, we were able to determine that an ancillary probate was not necessary.

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

One of the most important jobs I perform as an estate planning and probate lawyer is helping my clients determine when and if a probate is required. While doing this, I often find some misunderstandings exist. For example, some clients erroneously believe that if there is a written last will and testament then there is no need to complete a probate. This is not true.

Regardless of whether there is or isn’t a written Will, a probate is required in Idaho anytime a person individually owns any type or kind of an interest in real estate, or even if there is no real estate that is owned, a probate is still required when the total value of the individual’s estate is worth $100,000 or more when they die.

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

I love living in Idaho. Not only is it a picturesque and beautiful state it also has very favorable laws when it comes to estate planning and probate. Additionally, the costs for getting these things done is lower than just about any other state.

Having been an estate planning and probate attorney for more than 20 years, I’ve completed my fair share of probates. I am also licensed in Utah and have had an opportunity to become familiar with the estate planning and probate laws of several surrounding states. Because of this, I can tell you with certainty, that Idaho is a special place.

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an estate planning attorney for over 20 years I have heard all the excuses when it comes estate planning. However, the biggest myth that exists and the one that I hear regularly is that a person feels like they don’t need to get an estate plan done. I suppose if that person has a crystal ball and has a perfect view of what their future holds this may be true. However, without a crystal ball, or some other way of knowing exactly what your future is going to be like, then I would suggest to you that your future is uncertain. The uncertainties of life are exactly why you should get your estate planning done.

It is possible that at some point in your future you may lose the ability to make decisions for yourself about your money, property, and other assets as well. This could come in the form of an illness such as Alzheimer’s disease or some other type of Dementia or it could be the result of an injury. Making decisions about your stuff, is the main function of a durable power of attorney document while you are alive. This document gives you the ability to name somebody who will take care of these things for you, if you can no longer do that for yourself.

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