By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

I’ve been an Idaho estate planning and probate attorney now for nearly 20 years. During that time, I’ve received numerous phone calls from clients letting me know that a family member or loved one has passed away. Usually the purpose of this call is that the person doesn’t know what it is they need to do next and they want me to answer their questions.

I provide to these clients a free 30-minute consultation so I can learn about the situation of their family member or loved one. By doing this, I can answer their questions about the things that need to be done. Usually, the main questions people have is about the property, money, or assets the person has left behind as well as any debts that still exist.

Once I’ve learned of all the circumstances through the free 30-minute consultation, I’m then able to describe the different methods that can be used to take care of distributing the property of the decedent, as well as dealing with any outstanding debts or obligations that are still owed. The options available depend of course upon the circumstances of the individual who passed away. However, these options can be summarized in the three sections listed below.

Small Estate Affidavit

A small estate affidavit is a formal written document that is allowed by Idaho statutes whenever the person who passed away owned a small estate. In Idaho, a small estate is considered to be an estate that does not include any real estate, such as a home, farm ground, investment properties or any other type of real property. Additionally, a small estate would be any estate where the total value of all the money, property, and other assets owned by the person who passed away is less than $100,000.

When there truly is just a small estate that exists, the affidavit prescribed by Idaho’s statutes can be used to dispose of all of the property that’s left. This is a fairly simple and easy process, and we often use it to assist our clients when a true small estate exists.

Summary Administration Probate

When a small estate does not exist, but there is a surviving spouse of the individual who passed away, then we look at whether we can use a summary administration probate. This type of probate is available to a surviving spouse when all of the property that was owned by the deceased spouse was community property with the surviving spouse.

Because Idaho is a community property state, it provides specific statutes that allow for a summary administration to be completed by a surviving spouse. This process results in a decree issued by a court that transfers all of the money, property, and other assets in the estate to the surviving spouse as community property.

The two key elements here are that a summary administration can only be used by a surviving spouse. Additionally, it can only be used when community property exists. If there was separate property that was owned by the deceased spouse, then a regular probate must be completed.

Regular Probate

The regular probate process is the normal process that is used when a person passes away. This process is used regardless of whether there was a written last will and testament or not. When there is a written will, the probate is designed to complete everything that the written will declares needs to be done. When there is no written will, the probate is under the laws of intestacy based on Idaho’s statutes.

The regular probate process takes a little longer and costs a little more than the other methods described above, but the good news is that Idaho is perhaps one of the least expensive states in which to complete a probate.

I have helped numerous clients through each of these types of probate processes and I’m confident that if you have questions or concerns, I can help you too. Please feel free to contact me for a free 30-minute consultation where I can answer your questions and can help you determine which type of probate process will be right for you.


If you have any questions about your estate or how to simplify your plans for your family and loved ones, we can help.  Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Pocatello. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lane@racineolson.com. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Pocatello Estate Planning problems. I have helped numerous clients create their own customized estate plans and I’m confident that I can help you too.

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