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Boise Estate Planning Your Last Will and Testament

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Thanks to the plethora of over dramatic scenes in both movies and TV shows, most people are familiar with what a last will and testament is. However, most portrayals of how a last will and testament works aren’t all that accurate. While occasionally there could be dramatic moments where a last will and testament is read which has surprises in it for those who are left behind, usually there is much less drama associated with reading and understanding a person’s last will and testament. Additionally, most people are surprised to learn that a last will and testament is just a small part of the documents that should be included in a complete estate plan.

At the Racine law office our premier team of Boise estate planning attorneys have assisted clients for over 70 years in preparing customized estate plans which include a well-thought-out and a will written last will and testament. Our team of Boise estate planning attorneys includes partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. We are proud of our Pocatello estate planning team. Our lawyers have each earned the highest rankings possible from notable legal ranking services including AVVO, Justia, and Martindale & Hubbell. We are both confident and certain that our team can help you meet your estate planning needs including completing a well-thought-out last will and testament for you.

Regardless of your understanding of a last will and testament, or how it can help you as part of your estate planning, the purpose of this article is to give you additional information about a last will and testament.

1. Everyone Should Have a Will

The very first thing that you should know is that everyone should have a last will and testament as part of their estate plan. For that matter, everyone should have a well thought out and complete estate plan because it not only allows you to give away your money, property, and other items when you die, a complete estate plan also provide specific protections to you while you are alive through your Durable Power of Attorney, your Living Will and your Power of Attorney for Health Care.

A last will and testament can help you regardless of whether you are old or young, rich or poor, married or single, male or female, and whether you have a family or not. While it’s true that the main purpose of a last will and testament is to give you the ability to decide who your money, property, and other assets will go to after you die, it can also do much more than this.

2. What a Will Can and Can’t Do

Depending on your circumstances, a last will and testament allows you to nominate a name a guardian for your minor aged children. It can also be used to set up a trust that will provide financially for your minor age children until they reach the age that you decide they should be before they receive your money, property, and other assets from your estate.

A last will and testament is used to name the beneficiaries, who are the people who will receive your property, money and assets after you die. Beneficiaries can include your spouse, your children, other relatives, close family friends or other loved ones, or charities. essentially, the last will and testament gives you the ultimate and complete control over naming who will receive your estate after you die.

In addition to this, the last will and testament allows you to specifically disinherit a person if you choose to do so. This is allowed under Idaho law regardless of whether the person you are disinheriting would normally be a beneficiary or not. Well it may seem strange that we are discussing disinheriting an individual, there are some situations where this could be an important tool. Consider for a moment if you had a family member or loved one who had addictions to drugs or alcohol, or gambling or other destructive characteristics as part of their personality. In this circumstance most people would agree that it would be a bad idea to leave money, property, or other assets to this individual. As an alternative to disinheriting, a person can use their last will and testament to set up a trust for this type of individual.

A last will and testament can also be used as the main way of appointing who your personal representative will be. A personal representative is the individual you are naming who will be required to protect your money, property, and other assets and distribute them based on the instructions you leave in your last will and testament. This person is also responsible for paying and taking care of all of your debts and any other expenses you leave behind after you die.

Having talked about what a last will and testament can do, now let’s focus for a moment on what it cannot do. The last will and testament will not control your retirement account such as 401K Roth IRA is, annuities, certain types of Pensions, and other types of retirement accounts. The reason for this is that these accounts are considered a third party contract that are controlled by the contract you signed when you set them up. That’s part of that contract you filled out a beneficiary designation form where you name the divisions who would receive these accounts after you died. As a result, your last will and testament will have no legal control over these types of accounts.

The same is true for life insurance policies. Your last will and testament will not control who will receive your life insurance benefits. These benefits will go to the individuals you named as beneficiaries in your life insurance contract.

Finally, because we live in Idaho, and are subject to community property laws, your last will and testament will not control property over which your spouse has an interest. For example, most spouses own a home jointly. As a result of this, your last will and testament will not allow you to give your house away to someone at the exclusion of your spouse. There are specific laws in Idaho that control a spouse’s claim to homesteads. The same is true for any other type of community property. A person could only giveaway in their last will and testament what they themselves actually own.

3. How Often a Will Should Be Updated

Having discussed now why it’s important for everyone to have a will and what a will can and can’t do, the next most important thing to discuss is how often they will should be updated. Our advice is that your last will and testament should be updated whenever you experienced a major life change. A major life change would include such things as the birth of a loved one, the death of a loved one, a divorce, a marriage, someone moving away, or just the passage of time. We usually suggest that our clients regularly read through their last will and testament. By doing this, it will become obvious if a change is needed.

ENLIST A BOISE ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU

Our team of Boise Estate Planning lawyers can help you. Whether you are seeking to create or review your own customized Estate Plan or would like to help a family member, 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. You can also email us directly at lve@racinelaw.net. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Boise Estate Planning problems.

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