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HOW CONFIDENTIAL ARE YOUR ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Over the past 21 years that I’ve worked as an estate planning attorney I’ve learned many things about how people feel and think about their estate plans. There have been hundreds of times I’ve sat down with a client and with their children to discuss estate planning and in all of these conversations I point out to my clients that I actually represent them. Then, in front of the other people in the room which are usually the children, I ask my clients, who are usually the parents, for permission to discuss their estate planning issues, concerns, and documents while their children are in the room.

There usually is not an issue with this. In most instances, the parents have brought their children because they want their children to help them make decisions or to simply be aware of what their estate plan is. However, as an attorney, I have both an ethical and a legal obligation to keep my clients’ estate plans confidential.

Sometimes, after completing an estate plan for a client, I will have one of their children call me to ask me additional questions about the estate plan. Unless I have their parents’ permission to talk with the children, I have to tell the children that I am obligated to keep that information confidential. However, I usually offer to call their parents and ask if they are okay with me sharing that information with their children. In other words, at the Racine Olson Law Firm, we take Our obligation of confidentiality very seriously.

Having said that, the question of this particular blog is how confidential are your estate planning documents? let’s take you to the documents one at a time and discuss how confidential they actually are.

Last Will and Testament

Starting with the last will and testament, which is the document prepared to give you the ability to leave instructions on who you want to leave your money, property, and other assets to when you pass away, confidentiality is an interesting issue. When you first create your last will and testament, it is absolutely confidential from any and all persons that you do not want to receive that information. In other words, the law firm, the lawyers, and everyone else is bound to keep your last will and testament confidential unless you give specific permission for yet to be discussed with someone else.

However, this all changes after you die. After you pass away, your last will and testament is a document that must be filed with a court during the probate process. Because of this, the last will and testament actually becomes a public document is one of the regular court documents.

Some people are concerned about this, but they really don’t need to be. Most people are willing to pay the fees to get a copy of your last will and testament unless you are rich, infamous, or some type of a celebrity.

Powers of Attorney

Your written powers of attorney documents are a little different. These documents are kept confidential as long as you would like them to be. However, if you reach a point while you are alive where you need some assistance through your written powers of attorney, then the document begins to lose its confidentiality. In other words, if you have named one of your children as your power of attorney to help you, they will need to have the original document. Then, they will likely need to provide a copy of this document to your bank at other financial institutions, your creditors, some government agencies like local, state or federal taxing conditions and so forth.

Trusts

Trusts are part of your estate planning documents that actually could be kept more confidential most of the time. However, if part of your trust includes a bank account, or titled property, or property that you will be transferring, selling, or deeding to other parties, then copies of the trust documents usually are necessary to complete these transactions.

If you have questions about how and when your estate planning documents are confidential, we’d be happy to discuss these with you. We offer a free 30-minute consultation to do this. We also offer a free estate planning questionnaire that you can download to help you prepare your information so you can complete your own customized estate plan.

We with confidentiality issues and with their estate plans and we are confident that we can help you too.

ENLIST AN IDAHO ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP 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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