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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an estate planning attorney it is inevitable that I have seen every possible scenario you can imagine. This includes good things, bad things, and ugly things when it comes to estate planning, probates, family fights, distributions from an estate, and so forth. Each of these experiences has made an indelible impression on my mind about the importance of a person having their estate planning done.

Through all those experience as I have come to learn that there really are two big failures that a person can have in their own estate planning that will likely have a monumentally negative effect on their family and loved ones after they pass away. The purpose of this article is to describe what these two failures are and what you can do to avoid them.

  1. Failure to Get it Done

The first big failure that most people go through is that they don’t get their estate planning done in the first place. In other words, they have no estate planning documents that can assist their family and loved ones after they pass away. As a result, the family and loved ones are usually left in a state of chaos trying to figure out what needs to be done and whether the law will help them do it or not.

All of this could be avoided by a person getting at least a basic estate plan in place. The basic estate plan would consist of a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a power of attorney for health care. Each of these documents plays an important role both while you are alive and after you pass away, in giving specific instructions and directions to your family members and loved ones. Most importantly, these documents are legally valid and binding. As a result, you have the ability to help your family and loved ones avoid unnecessary conflict and problems amongst themselves.

  1. Failure to Keep it Updated

The second biggest failure that I’ve seen when it comes to estate planning is that if a person has made an effort to get it done, they have failed to keep it updated when the circumstances in their lives have changed. In other words, it’s possible that you could have gotten your estate-planning done 10, 15 or 20 years ago. But, you haven’t done anything since then to update or change it so that it reflects the current circumstances of your life. When this occurs, often, the things that you are old estate planning requires to be done are the very things that you would not want to be done now. However, as I stated above, estate planning documents are binding and the law will require that they be carried out.

If you have estate planning done and you have ever gone through a major life change then you should immediately update your estate planning documents. A major life change would include the birth of a loved one, the death of a loved one, a divorce, a marriage, or just the passage of a long period of time (ie more than 5 years).

How to Get Started

So now what do you do. I’ve learned that the biggest problem in getting estate planning done or updated for most people is that they simply do not know where to start. We certainly don’t expect our clients to understand estate planning the same way we do. It’s for this reason that we provide our clients with our Estate Planning Questionnaire to help them get started.

Our Estate Planning Questionnaire is a PDF document on our website that a person can download and then type into directly from their computer. It is broken down into 7 easy steps that are simple to go through and to provide information on. Some of the steps include blank lines asking you to fill in information such as names and addresses for yourself or your children or loved ones. Other steps in the Estate Planning Questionnaire ask you specific questions where you can provide yes or no answers that will help guide you to the estate planning options that will meet your specific needs.

My hope is that through this article you will be able to avoid the two biggest failures in your own estate planning. By doing this, you will be making things so much easier for your family and loved ones after you pass away.


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 Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho 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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