By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney
We’ve all been there. It’s something that seems to happen to me quite often. That is I will meet someone new and they will ask me what I do for a living. After I explained that I have been an estate planning attorney for nearly 20 years I will usually get one of two reactions. The first reaction is that the person I have just met will ask me questions about estate planning and tell me that they really need to get it done. The second and usually the most common reaction is that I will have the individual say to me “I really don’t need to get my estate planning done because my family knows what I want and they will take care of it.”
When I was young I would try to explain to these individuals that no their family really didn’t know what they wanted. I’ve come to learn though that trying to convince somebody that they need to get their estate planning done is pretty much the same as the dentist telling them they need to floss more often. People hear it, I think they understand it, I think they may even agree with me about it, but they usually don’t do it.
Based on my experience in being an estate planning attorney here are the two of the most important pieces of advice I give to someone who would tell me that their family knows what they want and will do it for them after they die.
If it is not Written Down it Doesn’t Count
The first piece of advice I give is that if your intentions and plan are not written down then they don’t count. As an attorney I am simply saying that this is the legal standard that actually applies. In Idaho, if you do not have your last will and testament in writing in a form that is legally recognized, then you have no written Will. When this happens, it is impossible for an individual to claim this is what my mom or dad would have wanted. Rather Idaho’s laws of intestacy kick in and become not only effective, but also legally binding.
What this means from a legal standpoint is that if there is one individual who does not agree with what mom or dad wanted but failed to put into writing, they can challenge any gifts thus given and require the laws of intestacy to be followed. With the laws of intestacy or followed, usually what mom and dad wanted is not followed. So my advice to individuals when it comes to estate planning is it must be in writing or a does not count.
People Only Remember What They Want to Remember
The second piece of advice that I give to individuals is that your family are only going to remember what they want to remember. In other words, as an attorney, I get to see not only an individual create their estate plan, but I also get to see it carried out after they die through the probate process. I can tell you that through my experience family members often only remember what they want to remember. This usually means that they will end up with more property than what Mom and Dad had stated or intended. Because it’s not in writing there’s not a thing that can be done about it.
If you really want your intentions carried out, you need to put them in writing, because it is just my experience that your family really does not know or won’t remember what you want.
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 free 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.