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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

My goal for each client is to complete their estate plan in the simplest and most efficient way possible. I believe that most people only need a simple plan without any embellishments or add-ons. I know I am more sensitive to recently because I’ve had several clients bring me large binders full of documents to review they received when they worked with other attorneys or financial providers. In reviewing these binders, I’ve found that about 90% of the documents in them are unnecessary.

An estate plan should be simple, and should have only what the client wants, and nothing more. At the Racine law office, we have provided Premier Idaho estate planning services for more than 70 years. Our goal is to understand and meet the specific and individual needs each client has. We do not insist that we provide our clients with large binders full of unneeded documents.

When it comes to Idaho estate planning here are three things you should understand about why you should keep your estate plan simple.

What a Simple Estate Plan Is

A simple estate plan has four specific documents. These documents are: (1)a last will and testament; (2) a durable power of attorney; (3) a living will; and (4) a health care power of attorney. My experience is that for most people these four documents are all that are needed because these documents cover nearly every need that could arise.

The last will and testament, gives our clients the ability to provide specific instructions about who their money, property, assets will belong to after they die. Additionally, a last will and testament is parents of small children can nominate a guardian or Guardians. Further, a last will and testament gives our clients the ability to create a financial plan for their loved ones. Our clients can also name a personal representative to carry out the instructions in the will.

However, of all the documents in an estate plan the durable power of attorney is the most important. This document gives our clients the ability to nominate an individual who will do all the things for them that they are doing for themselves such as: handling finances, dealing with property and debts, and taking care of all other daily functions. By using a durable power of attorney our clients avoid potential family fights and court proceedings because they have already made decisions for themselves.

A health care power of attorney is similar. This document is focused on the narrow area of providing healthcare. If a client becomes incapacitated this document allows another individual to make health care decisions including the doctors that are visited, the medicines that are taken, and the medical procedures that are received. Additionally, all decisions about whether a person needs any assisted living services and if so, which types of services are received are also included.

The final document that is part of a simple estate plan is a living will which is a document designed to allow a person to make binding instructions to doctors and healthcare providers about the end of their life. Specifically, when a person has a terminal condition and is not able to communicate with their doctors the living will provides instructions about whether they do or do not want to be put on life support and kept alive artificially. So long as a person can communicate with their doctor the living will has no effect. It is designed to provide protection for a person and to make sure their instructions are followed, in the event they cannot talk with their doctors.

Current Laws Allow for Simpler Estate Planning

The main reason the four documents described above are adequate for almost everyone is because of the recent tax law changes. In previous years a trust was often included as part of an estate plan. Its purpose was to help avoid potential estate taxes. However, that is no longer really a concern for most people

The only real reasons for including a trust as part of an estate plan now would be to avoid probate, or to provide for a special needs person, or to help qualify for Medicaid. Each of these goals could utilize a trust. Really we find that most people don’t have these needs and as a result don’t need a complicated or expensive trust.

A Simple Estate Plan is Easier to Keep Updated

The main reason to keep an estate plan simple is make it easier to update later. Life is always changing. Each person’s estate plan should be kept updated so that it will meet their needs. A person should update their estate planning any time they go through a major life change such as a birth, a death, a divorce or a marriage, a person moving away, or the passage of a long period of time. When any of these major events happens, we suggest to everyone that they review their estate plan to make sure it does what they want.


When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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