By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

I’ve been an estate planning attorney now for more than 20 years. During this time, I’ve seen a lot of situations arise between parents and children when it comes to estate planning. In particular, there have been many instances where I have helped a parent complete a written estate plan that they have chosen for any number of reasons not to share with their children. Sometime later, I may have the children contact me and ask me what their parent’s estate planning documents say.

This situation leads to the question that is the title of this article. That is, do kids have a right to read their parents estate planning documents? The short answer is both no and yes. Really, the answer depends on the circumstances that exist. I’ll provide some examples below to illustrate what I mean by this answer.

Let’s suppose that the parents are healthy and are able to take care of themselves. In this circumstance, a child does not have a right to read any portion of the parent’s estate planning documents if the parent does not want the child to read them. In other words, the starting place is always to understand that estate planning documents are the personal property of the person who created them. As a result, only that person has the right and legal ability to authorize who and when their estate planning documents are shown to other people. The attorney does not have the right to make that decision. Rather, the attorney has to receive authorization from the owner of the written estate plan before they can show it to anyone else.

However, things may change even while the parents are alive. As part of a basic estate plan, including the last will and testament, we always encourage our clients to obtain a durable power of attorney to cover property and finances and a power of attorney for health care to cover medical situations.  If, in either of these documents, the parents name one of their children as the person who holds the power of attorney, and the parent then needs the power of attorney to be used, the child would have a right to read and get a copy of those specific documents. They may also have a right to receive the original documents.

Additionally, the last will and testament does not become effective until after a person passes away. For this reason, while a parent is alive, they can prevent their children from seeing their last will and testament. However, after the parent has passed away, a child does have a right to receive a copy of the last will and testament for two reasons. First, it’s likely that the child is listed as a beneficiary in the will. Furthermore, it’s also likely that the child would be listed as an appointment such as being the personal representative. For both of these reasons, after a parent passes away, a child does have a right to read and/or receive copies of the estate planning documents.

So, as you can see, whether or not a child has a right to read their parents estate planning documents really depends on the circumstances at that moment. If the parents are alive and they do not want their children to read their estate planning documents, then the children will not get them. However, if other circumstances exist, it’s possible that the children could get those documents because they may need them to carry out the instructions their parents have left.

If you have questions about whether you are entitled to read your parents estate planning documents, we can help.


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 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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