By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney
Having been an estate planning attorney for nearly 20 years I can tell you with some confidence that I have had many meetings with clients where I have talked with them about the fact that their estate planning is about them, and not about the people they are giving their property, money, or other assets to after they die. For some reason, my clients have this belief that when they create their estate plan it has to somehow be fair to all the people that they name who will receive gifts from them. This is particularly true when we are talking about children.
In order to help my clients understand that they do not in fact have to be fair, I usually tell them the following three things:
There is No Legal Requirement of Fairness
The first thing I tell my clients is that there is no law anywhere in Idaho or anywhere else in the world that requires them to be “fair” with how they distribute their money, property, and other assets after they pass away. If there were such a thing as a “fairness law” it would be very specific on how property would be divided and then distributed. As a result, there would be no need for a written last will and testament or any other estate planning documents. Rather, the laws would simply control how property will be distributed.
Having said that, it is true that Idaho does have intestate statutes. In other words, if you do not have a written last will and testament, then your property will be distributed fairly, based on the specific statutes doing with intestate Estates. In other words, the statutes will control who get your property and in what amounts. However, most people don’t want their money, and property to be distributed based on some scheme devised by Idaho’s statutes. Rather, most people would rather have their own written last will and testament so that they are in control of who receives what.
Your Estate Planning is About You Not About Them
The second thing I tell my clients is that their estate planning is about them, and not about their children, their friends, their loved ones, or anyone else. In other words, estate planning is designed to do two things. The first is to provide protections to the individual while they are alive. The second is to give that individual the ability to give their property and money to whoever they want however they want. In other words, to allow our clients to be in complete control of the distribution of their own estate.
While it is noble that you would be thinking about others, it’s more important that as you create your own estate plan you think more about yourself. This is not being selfish, nor is it being greedy. Rather, the purpose of estate planning is to give you control and the ability to do what you want based on what you believe should happen.
You Are Free to Treat Children Differently If You Want to
The final thing I tell my clients, especially my clients who have children, is that they are not required to treat their children equally. The reason for this is that children are not equal. Some children have more need for your money, or property than others. Additionally, some children may have disabilities, or handicaps, or addictions, or other problems in life that make it so that they shouldn’t be treated the same as your other children. Furthermore, you may already have helped some of your children more than your other children financially while you are alive. Because your children are different, and because you have control over your own estate planning, you are in a position to create your own plan based upon the needs of your children and specifically what you want to do to help them.
So don’t get caught up in some “fairness” dialogue with yourself. The law doesn’t require it, your kids do not need it, and you may not be able to do it even if you wanted to.
ENLIST AN ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU
When it comes to estate planning or probate you should never try to do it alone. If you have questions for yourself or for your family and loved ones, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.