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Do You Need to Hire an Attorney?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning and Probate Attorney

Do you need to hire an attorney? That’s the title of this article and really the focus of what we will be talking about. The situations that create this question are when you are dealing with your own written estate planning or when a loved one or other family member has passed away and a probate needs to be completed.

Because we live in a do-it-yourself world, where YouTube videos, online Internet articles, and friends and family are easily available, we often try to complete many tasks on our own that we may have previously hired someone to do for us. I’m all in favor of this kind of can-do attitude When it comes to making your own furniture, changing the alternator or oil in your car, fixing a leaky pipe, or changing the light switch on your wall I say do it yourself if you can.

The reason I feel this way about these things is because none of these things is life changing. I mean let’s be honest here, if you go to change the light switch on your wall and you do it wrong, likely the worst thing that will happen is that you will trip the fuse in your breaker box. The same is true of changing your alternator in your car, or any of the other things that are listed above. If you make a mistake, it can usually easily be fixed. However, there are some things that I don’t believe you should try and do on your own.

When you don’t have any experience or knowledge, I don’t believe that you should try to wire your entire house. I don’t believe that you should try to change the engine or transmission in your own car. Likewise, when it comes to estate planning or probate work, I don’t believe that you should try to do that on your own either when you don’t know what you are doing. The reason is the consequences of making a mistake on any of these kinds of things is much much greater than when you’re simply trying to tackle something small.

As an estate planning and probate attorney for over 20 years, I can tell you that the law is always changing. Additionally, the circumstances of a person’s life are always changing too. Because of these two things variables, I am constantly learning new things that help my clients with their estate planning or with a probate when a family member or loved one passes away. Based on this, I truly believe that when it comes to the topics listed below, each person should contact a qualified and experienced Idaho estate planning and probate attorney to help them make sure that everything is done correctly.

Creating an Estate Plan

This is especially true when it comes to creating a written estate plan for yourself. Most people are aware of a last will and testament. However, when it comes to estate planning, most people are not aware of the other documents that should be included that provide a protection to them while they are alive. These documents would include a durable power of attorney for property and finances, a living will, and a durable power of attorney for health care. These documents provide specific protections for an individual while they are alive that can save them money and can prevent disagreements and legal fights between well-meaning family members.

Additionally, depending on a person’s family or life circumstances, they may also need to name a guardian for their minor aged children, and may need to create a testamentary trust to protect the money, property, and other assets that would go to their children while they are young.

Furthermore, depending on the circumstances of a person’s family, there may be children who are disabled, or who suffer from addictions. These two particular circumstances will likely make it so that a parent should not leave money or property from their estate directly to these children. Rather, it may be necessary to create a supplemental needs trust, or some other type of trust that will protect this money and property and still provide benefits to their children long after the parents have passed away.

Updating Your Estate Plan

Even after a written estate plan is completed, everything is not done. This person may go through some major life change that will require their written estate plan to be updated. A major life change could include getting married, getting a divorce, having a child born, having a loved one pass away, moving away, or just the passage of a long amount of time. Each of these specific things could change the focus of an individual’s life which would require their estate plan to be radically different than it was when it was written.

In addition to the life changes described above, there could also be legal changes as well. The law concerning estate taxes is always being updated and revised. Additionally, the ability to use certain trusts in certain circumstances is often controlled by federal or state statutes. An experienced estate planning attorney understands these things and knows when a person’s estate planning should be updated.

Probate When a Family Member or Loved One Passes Away

Furthermore, even with a well-drafted estate plan, when a loved one or family member passes away, a probate may be necessary. The steps and processes involved in a probate are going to be determined by whether or not there was a written last will and testament, whether a trust exists, and based on the types and amounts of money, property, and other assets that were owned by the person who passed away.

A qualified and experienced Idaho probate attorney can answer all questions an individual has about the steps necessary to move forward. In my experience most individuals do not understand or know what these are. In fact, I often have clients come to me when a parent or other person has passed away and they are trying to sell a home or other real estate and find out that they can’t, because a probate was not completed.

The bottom line is that there are certain things that a person can do on their own. However, in my experience, and based on the bad experiences I have helped clients through who have tried to do it on their own, I don’t believe that estate planning or probate can be done in this way. Our team of premier Idaho estate planning and probate attorneys have assisted clients for more than 70 years. We are confident that we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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