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Do I Need Estate Planning?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As almost everyone experiences, I am often asked what I do for a living. When I indicate that I am an estate planning attorney, I usually get one of three reactions. The first one is many people will say "I've always needed to get my estate planning done, where do I start?" The second reaction is "I already have my estate planning done." The third reaction is "I don't need to get estate planning done because I am too ________." The blank is usually filled in with the word young, poor, or single.

Having done estate planning for nearly 20 years it is my professional opinion that every adult could benefit from having an estate plan. To be clear, this is not just me trying to convince you that you should get your estate planning done so that I can earn a fee from you. Rather, after nearly 20 years and having observed the circumstances of countless lives, I have yet to find a situation where an individual and their family or loved ones wouldn't benefit from having a well-thought-out estate plan in place.

At the Racine law office we have a team of Idaho estate planning attorneys that help each client create a customized estate plan to help them in their lives and to help their family and loved ones after they pass away. Our team of estate planning lawyers consists of partners Randy Budge, and Lane Erickson, and attorney Dave Bagley. Each of our attorneys has received the highest ratings possible on several legal rating services, including Martindale and Hubbell, AVVO, and Justia. Given our experience we believe that every client can benefit from having a customized Idaho estate plan.

When considering completing your own estate plan here are 3 questions we often are asked that might apply to you. It is our belief that by answering these questions honestly you will see that having an estate plan is a good idea for you too!

Am I Old Enough to Need Estate Planning?

The first question that I am often asked is am I old enough to even need an estate plan? Usually this question comes to me from young people. Sometimes these young people are parents, and sometimes they are not. The short answer is that if you are over the age of 18, which means that you are a legal adult in Idaho, then you should have an estate plan in place. It is even more important to have an estate plan in place if you are parents of young children.

Let's consider for a moment that you are a young married couple with a three-year-old and a baby. In this circumstance, estate planning can help you in a number of ways including caring for your children if something were to happen to you and your spouse. Through your estate planning you can nominate Guardians for your minor age children if you and your spouse pass away at a time when your children are still minors, which means they are under the age of 18. This is important because by nominating Guardians you can help avoid any family fights that could occur amongst well-meaning parents of siblings about who should care for your children if you and your spouse are gone.

Additionally, your estate planning would allow you to create a Minor's Trust to hold and protect money, property, and other assets, for the benefit of your children until they reach an age where you believe they will be mature enough to handle those items on their own. In the meantime, this trust could be used to provide benefits to your children such as helping to pay for a college education, helping them get into a first house, or helping them start a business.

Do I Have Enough "Stuff" to Need Estate Planning?

The second question I have asked is if I don't own anything, is it still important for me to have an estate plan in place? In other words, if I don't own any "stuff", do I still need an estate plan? The short answer is yes! Estate planning is so much more than just dealing with your money, property, and assets after you die. In fact, the most important parts of estate planning for you individually are those documents that can help and protect you while you are alive. These documents would include a durable power of attorney, a power of attorney for health care, and a living will.

Your Powers of Attorney are designed to protect you while you are alive. These documents suppose that for some reason you lose the legal ability to take care of your own property and finances and to make medical decisions for yourself. If you do not have your powers of attorney in place, Idaho law would require a legal guardianship to be completed for you where a guardian would be appointed by a court that would take care of these things. The problem with a guardianship is that you have no control over who will be nominated or named by the court. However, by completing your own estate plan, which would include these powers of attorney, you have the ability to name the specific individuals you want to make these decisions for you if you lose the ability to do it for yourself.

Additionally, your living will gives you the ability to provide specific instructions to your doctors and other healthcare providers about your end-of-life decision. In other words, if you had some terminal injury or illness, and the only thing keeping you alive are the machines, you have the ability to leave specific instructions in your living will about what your doctors are supposed to do and what they are not supposed to do. This removes this decision from the shoulders of your family or loved ones.

If I Have no Family Do I Still Need an Estate Plan?

The final question that I am usually asked is if I have no family do I still need to get my estate planning done? Again, the answer is yes! For the same reasons that are listed above, estate planning is so much more than just giving your stuff away after you die. It is designed to protect you while you are alive. Additionally, even if you have no family or loved ones to leave your money, property, or assets to, you still have the ability to choose charities, educational purposes, or any other type of charitable purpose as the recipient of your estate, money, and property. If you truly have no family, and you have no written last will and testament that specifies who your estate goes to, then it will end up in the hands of the government. I think we would all agree that the government already has plenty. It would be better for you to leave your estate to a charitable purpose, where it could really help other people, than it would for your estate to go to the government.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

We are confident that we can help you. Whether you are seeking to create or review your own customized Estate Plan or would like to help a family member do the same, 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 Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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