By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

When I meet a person for the first time and mention that I’m an estate planning attorney they usually respond by saying that they’ve been meaning to get their Will done for some time. This is a common response, and an interesting one. I find that most people don’t understand estate planning and believe it is only focused on who gets their money, property, and other assets after they die. In other words, most people believe that estate planning is focused only on death. This isn’t true!

Whenever I meet with a new client to discuss estate planning, I always start the meeting by focusing on how estate planning can help protect and provide for my client while they are alive. I leave the discussions about Wills, and giving gifts after they die, to the very end of the meeting. The reason I do this is because I tell my clients. The most important part of estate planning is helping them while they are alive.

I start by talking about the durable power of attorney. Of all the estate planning documents, this one is worth its weight in gold. The reason I say that is because it has the ability to save my clients thousands of dollars, to avoid family fights, and to make sure that a plan is in place to protect and provide for them while they are alive.

The durable power of attorney is the document where you name someone who will take care of your finances and property if you become unable to do it yourself. The classic example is Alzheimer’s disease. When this happens, the person loses their ability to think rationally and remember things. However, typically they will live for many years. Because of this, they need someone to help them with their stuff.

Through a durable power of attorney, you have appointed someone who can step into your shoes, and hold onto your wallet and do everything for you that you normally do for yourself before you became unable to. This would include things such as paying your bills, receiving money into your account, dealing with creditors, taking care of your home, car, insurance, and other important things.  In other words, the person you have chosen is using all of your things to take care of you while you are alive.

Additionally, you have the ability of doing a healthcare power of attorney. This document is very narrow in scope and is limited only to medical and healthcare related things. This would include what doctors you see, what medicines you take, and what medical procedures you might receive. If you have Alzheimer’s, you may not be able to make decisions about these things. By having a healthcare power of attorney you have appointed someone who can make these decisions for you.

Finally, your estate plan would also include a written living will. This is a document which gives you the ability to leave specific instructions to your medical providers if you are in a circumstance where you are in the hospital on life support. You can tell your doctors that you want them to turn all the machines off. Alternatively, you could tell them that you want them to do everything possible to keep you alive as long as possible. The point is the decision is yours. Through your living will you get to make these decisions while you are able to, so that if you become unable your wishes will be followed.

It’s true that your written Will is an important part of your estate plan. It controls your money, property, and other assets after you die. However, your Will is not the most important part of your estate plan. Rather, your durable power of attorney, your healthcare power of attorney, and your living will, are because they provide protections for you while you are alive.

If you are interested in getting your estate plan done but don’t know where to start, download our free Estate Planning Questionnaire. This is a PDF document that you can type directly into and save to your computer. This document will guide you through collecting all the information you need to start making estate planning decisions for yourself. We also provide a free 30-minute consultation to answer your questions and help you understand the estate planning process. We encourage you to call us today.


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.

Contact Information