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Boise Estate Planning and How to Avoid Family Fights

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

In an ideal world, the death of a loved one would bring a family together. The family would mourn together and support each other and through this experience would become closer than they were before. The problem is, we don't live in an ideal world. As an Idaho estate planning attorney for over 20 years, I can tell you that when a loved one passes away I have seen the distribution of their money, property, and assets, bring out the best in people, and bring out the worst in people. What I find most interesting is that the biggest fights usually occur over the smallest things. In other words, it's not always the expensive houses, cars, and millions of dollars that family fight over, even though that does happen. Rather, most often I found that family members will fight over heirlooms, and other items that have sentimental value rather than monetary value.

For over 70 years we have made it our goal to assist our clients in solving all their Boise estate planning and probate problems. At the Racine Law Office, our experienced attorneys have the skill and experience necessary to assist each client in customizing their own estate plan in ways that will help avoid family members from fighting. Our team of Idaho estate planning attorneys includes partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley who are each experienced and knowledgeable in all areas of estate planning and probate law.

Because some items of property that are in your estate are heirlooms, or have sentimental value, there can often be hard feelings between family members about who should own these items after you pass away. To help you avoid your family from fighting over these things after you have died, here are three specific things that you should consider.

Understand the Emotions Involved - Small Things Lead to Big Fights

The first thing that you should understand is that it usually isn't the money or the dollar value of the item involved that causes a fight between family members. Rather, fights usually occur because two or more family members believe that they are the person who should receive a specific item from your estate either based on their relationship with you, or on things that you have told them while you are alive. Sometimes, well-meaning parents, promise that specific items of property will go to one of their children, and then later completely forget about that promise being made. As a result, if that item of property ends up being distributed to a different child, the child who received the promise from the parent may feel bitter or upset about that distribution. Parents don't always remember what they say to their children, but children always remember what their parents say to them.

Some parents may actually go to some efforts to solve these problems without seeing a lawyer. For example, I often have clients come to me and tell me that they have gathered their children around, they have asked their children to put a piece of tape with their name on it on an item of furniture or other property in the parent's home that that child will receive when the parent passes away. The problem is, tape with a name on it has no legal significance under Idaho law. As a result, if any other family member disagrees with that person receiving that item, the tape with a name on it will not solve that problem.

Clear and concise instructions in a valid and well written last will and testament about what you want to be done with your property after you pass away is the very best way to avoid family fights. By working with a qualified Idaho State planning attorney, you will have the assurance that yoiur estate planning documents will accomplish this specific thing, which will help avoid your family fighting over any property in your estate.

Complete Your Estate Planning - Avoid Surprises

Really, the single best thing that you can do is to avoid surprises within your family. To do this, you should get your written estate planning completed through a qualified Boise estate planning attorney, so you will know that it is valid, and that it is well thought out. The next thing you should do is let your family know that you do have your estate planning completed. To be sure, it is not necessary that you provide copies of your estate planning to your children. You can do so if you want to, but you are not required to do this. Often, it is enough for you to simply let your family know that you have your estate planning done in writing and that it contains your wishes about the distributions of your property, money, and other assets after you die. This is usually enough to satisfy family members that your wishes will be carried out.

Give Specific Gifts - Through Your Will

In order to avoid any surprises a parent should complete their own written Boise estate planning, which would include a well-written and well-thought-out last will and testament. Through a will, a parent can be very specific about which child will receive which property. When property is distributed in this way, even though the children may not be happy with the parent they usually do not have hard feelings against the other family members. As a result, if you know that more than one child has strong feelings about receiving an item of property, you should be very specific in your written will about who will actually receive it when you die.

Some parents are concerned about this advice because they may not yet know who they want to give their property to. The good news is that the last will and testament that we provide to our clients allows them to make these decisions at a later time, without having to keep coming back to us to revise their will. The way we do this is by including a specific gift list as a part of their written last will and testament.

The specific gift list is a form that our clients can fill out in their own handwriting whenever they choose. There is language in their written last will and testament that incorporates the specific gift list into the will which means it becomes a legal part of the will under existing Idaho law. Because of this, our clients can be deliberate and thoughtful and take their time in determining who they want to give specific gifts to. The only limitation to using the specific gift list, is that you cannot give gifts of cash, or gifts of real estate. Otherwise, any tangible item that you can touch, hold or carry, can be given through the specific gift list.

Enlist a Boise Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to Help You

Our experienced Estate Planning team of attorneys can help you and your family with your Boise estate plan or with your probate needs. Whether you are seeking your own customized Estate Plan or are in need of a Probate for a loved one who has passed, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a consultation with the Racine Olson team. You can also email us directly at racine@racinelaw.net. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Boise Estate Planning and Probate problems.

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