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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Both a new year and a new decade are upon us. Because of this, now is a great time to review your own written estate planning documents and make sure that they are valid, and more importantly that they accomplish what you want. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what estate planning documents do. For this reason, I often work with my clients in reviewing their estate plan, discussing what their estate plan accomplishes, and then help them in making any updates or changes to the estate plan the client wants to get done for the new year. I’ve helped clients accomplish this for more than 20 years and I’m confident that I can help you too!

So, what are the biggest mistakes people make with their estate plan in a new year? Below are the four most common mistakes that are made. I list these to help you understand the things that you should be thinking about to make sure that your estate plan is updated and accomplishes what you want it to do.

  1. Naming the Wrong Personal Representative

The number one mistake that is made by most people when it comes to their written estate plan is that they name the wrong person as their personal representative. The best people to name as your personal representative are the people that you are the closest to, which usually is your family. This would be your spouse, your adult children, or if you have none of these it could be a sibling or a parent.

The worst thing that you can do is name a good friend. The reason for this is that after you pass away, your family will likely gather to take care of your estate and your debts. As a result, most people should consider their family members first before choosing anyone else to be their personal representative. The only time that this would be different is if your family was incapable of doing it or if your estate with sizable and you felt that a friend or a professional would handle it better.

  1. Not Updating Your Will

The second biggest mistake that most people make when it comes to their estate planning in the new year is failing to update their documents, including their last will and testament. Any time you have gone through a major life change, which happens to everyone, you should update your written will. A major life change would include a birth, death, marriage, divorce, a person moving away, or just the passage of a long amount of time. If any of these things have occurred to you in your life during this last year, then you should read through your estate plan so you can see the changes and updates that you need to make.

  1. Not Providing For Your Minor Aged Children

The third biggest mistake that most people make when it comes to their written will and a new year is failing to provide for their children who are young. If you have children under the age of 18 then you should consider naming a guardian for those children. Additionally, you should consider setting up a testamentary trust that will take care of the money, property, and other items in your estate and protect them for your children until they reach the age that you believe they would be capable of taking care of those things themselves. In the meantime, a trustee could be handling those things for your children and providing things to help your children such as with their education, health, maintenance, and support.

  1. Failing to Create a Valid Will

The last big mistake that we will mention that many people make when it comes to their estate planning is failing to create a valid last will and testament. Many people attempt to do their own written will. When they do this, they often do it wrong or they don’t follow the formalities that Idaho law requires in order for a valid will to exist. Even if you have something in writing, if it does not meet the statutory requirements and is not valid, then you do not have a written will.

The very best way to take control of your estate and make sure that the right things happen is to have a written last will and testament. The worst thing that you can do is to have nothing, and allow the statutes to decide who will be your personal representative, who your beneficiaries will be, and which of your beneficiaries will receive your estate.

With a new year upon you, we highly recommend you speak with a qualified Idaho estate planning attorney to discuss your estate and the things that you need to protect yourself while you were alive and to provide for your family members and loved ones after you pass away. We have helped clients with their estate plans for more than 70 years, and we are confident that we can help you too! Please call us for a free 30-minute consultation.


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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