By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

I’ve said it many times but as an estate planning attorney I firmly believe that every person can benefit from having an estate plan completed. It doesn’t matter whether you are old and a millionaire, or young and penniless. Every person can be protected by and can benefit from having a complete plan in place.

A basic estate planning includes a written last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, a power of attorney for health care, and a living will. It may also include one or more trusts depending on the circumstances of yourself, your family, and your loved ones.

The focus of today’s article is on a durable power of attorney, and what happens if you don’t have one as part of your estate plan. The main purpose of a durable power of attorney is to protect you while you are alive. Specifically, a durable power of attorney gives you the ability to name someone who can step into your shoes and help you with your finances and property if you lose the ability to do this for yourself.

The classic example of this is Alzheimer’s disease. When a person suffers from Alzheimer’s, their memory and mind begin to be affected. When it’s mild, it usually only affects short-term memory. However, when it advances, a person loses the ability to function properly. This means that they are unable to keep track of their bank accounts, pay their bills on time, or even handle money when they are at the store. Under these circumstances, a person is vulnerable to being scammed or taken advantage of financially.

When a durable power of attorney is completed as part of the basic estate plan, the client has the ability to choose who they want to help them with these things. In other words, they can choose the person they believe who is trustworthy and best situated to help them with their finances and property. They also have the ability to choose a successor in case the first person they’ve chosen is either unable or unwilling to serve as the power of attorney.

When no durable power of attorney exist, if a person has Alzheimer’s and suddenly is in need of help, the only way that a person can be appointed to have legal authority to help is through a court process known as a guardianship and conservatorship. This is a court proceeding where an individual has to file a petition stating that a guardianship is needed, and that they believe they are the best person to be appointed to that position. The problem with this process is that you lose the ability to choose who can seek to be appointed. In other words, any of your family members can say to the court they believe they are the best person to be appointed.

When more than one person puts their hat in the ring it can result in a long and costly court battle. When this happens, it often leads to destroyed relationships within the family itself. Additionally, it is entirely possible that the court could appoint someone as your guardian that you would never have chosen for yourself.

It’s also important to understand that the costs of a guardianship and conservatorship hearing are about 3 times as much as what it costs to get an entire estate plan done which does far more for you than simply protecting you while you’re alive. A complete estate plan also gives you the ability to determine how and to whom you want your estate to be distributed after you pass away.

If you have questions or concerns about your own estate plan, we encourage you to contact us for a free 30-minute consultation where we can answer your questions and help you with your estate-planning needs. We have assisted numerous clients with their customized estate plans, and we are confident that we can help you too.


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 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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