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IDAHO PROBATE: DOES IT MATTER WHETHER YOU HAVE A WRITTEN WILL?

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Bye Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

When it comes to estate planning perhaps the most useful thing the Racine Law Office offers to our clients is our free 30-minute consultation. During our free 30-minute consultation we can answer all of client’s questions and can also give them a basic understanding of Idaho estate planning and how a well-written estate plan can help them personally as well as provide for their family and loved ones after they die. We don’t expect our clients to understand estate planning the same way we do. Nor do we expect our clients to have the skill, or expertise necessary to help them know what they should and should not include as part of their estate plan. Our goal is to give our clients as much information as possible through the free 30-minute consultation to help them understand their options and to make decisions about what they would like to get done.

One of the most often asked questions I get during our free 30-minute consultation is whether it is really important that our clients have an actual written will. Many of our clients believe that if they have a written Last Will and Testament they will not have to go through probate. Alternatively, some people believe that it is only through a written will that a probate is required.

In Idaho, if you do not have a written will, then you lose the ability to make specific decisions about who will do things for you when you are gone. These things may include whether or not you are cremated or have a funeral, and where you are buried. Most importantly you lose the ability to specifically decide who will receive your money, property, and assets after you die.

Below are three very simple questions that will help you understand why having a written will is so important. If after reading these questions, you would like to have a free 30-minute consultation please contact us.

Do You Want to Choose Your Own Personal Representative?

The first and most basic question I always ask my clients during our initial 30-minute consultation is whether they want to choose their own personal representative. The personal representative is the person who is appointed by the court to oversee your estate, and to make sure that your property is distributed to the right people.

There is no law in Idaho that requires you to name any specific person to be your personal representative. You have the ability to choose whoever it is you would like. Often, our clients will choose their spouses, or their children, or some other trusted family member or close friend to be their personal representative. Through a written will, you have the ability to name whoever you would like. Additionally, through your written will, you have the ability of naming who your second choice and even your third choice would be if the first people you choose are unable or unwilling to be your personal representative.

By naming who your personal representative will be, you have the ability to specifically named who will be in control of your estate after you pass away. Additionally, you have the ability to leave very specific instructions to your personal representative about what you want them to do and what you do not want them to do as they handle your estate.

Do You Want To Choose Your Own Beneficiaries?

The next most important question is do you want to choose who your own beneficiaries will be? A beneficiary is the person who receives the money, property, and other assets from your estate after you die. Again, the law does not require you to name any specific person as you are beneficiaries. There are some laws that will protect spouses with regards to your ability to give away all of your property. However, outside of that specific protection, you have the ability to name any person, or charity, or group that you would like to receive your estate.

If you do not have a written last will and testament where you name your own beneficiaries then the default Idaho intestacy laws will decide who your beneficiaries will be. These statutes create a list of priorities among certain people. The first priority always rest with a surviving spouse. The next level of priority includes children, or parents, or siblings. After that, the law simply goes down the line of your heirs which may include uncles are at ads cousins nieces and nephews or other relatives.

Do You Want to Choose Guardians for Your Minor Aged Children?

The next question, that applies to any person who has children who are under the age of 18, is whether you want to choose the Guardians for your children. Idaho law specifically gives you the ability to nominate who you would like to have as the Guardians for your minor age children in your written will. If you do not have a written will, then you cannot nominate Guardians for your minor age children. Rather, the default statutes in Idaho will kick in and just about any member of your family could petition the court to become the Guardians of your children. In this circumstance, we have often seen well-meaning family members who disagree about who should be appointed. What a disagreement arises, it often leads to inexpensive legal fight about who should be named. All of this could be avoided if you have a written will that nominates who you would like to have serve as the Guardians for your children.

So as you can see, having a written will is an important part of your estate plan. We have assisted numerous clients in creating their own customized written last will and testament. We are confident that we can help you too.

ENLIST AN IDAHO ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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