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How Inheritance Works in Pocatello

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

According to my review of a legal dictionary the word inheritance is defined to mean all property real or personal that is received by heirs from a decedent through the laws of descent and distribution. Most commonly the term refers to property received either through intestacy or by a last will and testament. In practical terms the word inheritance simply means that a person passes away and either because they have a written last will and testament or because of the application of probate laws the property that was owned by the decedent is transferred to and then owned by some other person. Usually this means a person leaving property to their spouse, children, grandchildren or some other person.

At the Racine Law Office, we take pride in the fact that we have helped clients with their estate planning or through the probate process in dealing with inheritances for over 70 years. Our Pocatello estate planning attorneys include partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of our attorneys have earned the highest client reviews possible which result in premier ratings at the major legal ranking services of Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO, and Justia.

When I talk to people about estate planning and leaving an inheritance to their family most usually tell me that they don’t believe they need any help because they aren’t wealthy. A person doesn’t need to be wealthy to benefit from estate planning. In fact, we believe that every person can benefit from having a good estate plan in place that not only distributes their property after they pass away but more importantly provides specific protections for them while they are alive. When it comes to distributing property, it is interesting to note that in several recent surveys it was reported that most families can expect to be dealing with an average of around $200,000 that will be passed as an inheritance. So, whether you think that you will be leaving an inheritance to others or if you expect that you may receive an inheritance from another person, here are three things that you should understand about how inheritance works in Pocatello.

When There is a Written Will

The easiest place to start when talking about an inheritance is when there is a written last will and testament. When a person has gone to the effort to create a written last will and testament, Idaho will recognize the specific gifts and distributions that are made in the written instructions left in the will. In other words, so long as the last will and testament is valid under Idaho law, the specific instructions and gifts that are described will be made to those who are identified.

The best thing about having a written will is that a person who creates it is in complete control of who receives their money, property, and assets. They can leave very specific instructions that identify and name either individuals or charities who will receive an inheritance and how large is an inheritance will be.

When a person passes away with a written last will and testament, there is usually a probate that is completed to authorize the distribution of the inheritance to those who are listed. Because of probate cannot last forever, distributions from the decedent’s estate usually occur quickly. In specific terms this means usually between about 6 to 8 months after the probate has begun.

When There is no Written Will

When it comes to an inheritance when there is no written last will and testament things are drastically different. When this occurs, the person is identified to have died “intestate”. This is a fancy legal word that lawyers use that simply means there is no written last will and testament. When this is the situation, the laws in Idaho specifically direct and describe how the decedent’s estate will be distributed and who will receive an inheritance. This means that the decedent loses complete control over who they want to receive their estate. The applicable laws are called Idaho’s intestate statutes which are found at Idaho Code §§ 15-2-101 et seq.

The intestate statutes in Idaho create a list of priorities of persons who will receive the decedent’s estate. These statutes give preference first to the spouse of the person who died. Under the statutes, when a person who is married dies, their spouse is entitled to receive all community property and ½ of all of the separate property the decedent owned when they died. The decedent’s children, or parents if they happen to still be alive will receive the other ½ of all separate property.

As was previously mentioned, the distributions that are listed here automatic. They happen under the power of the statutes, rather than being directed by the decedent themselves. As a result, it really doesn’t matter whether the decedent would have wanted to do it this way or not. It’s for these reasons that we strongly recommend that each person create their own written last will and testament so that they remain in complete control of the distribution of their estate after they die.

When There is a Written Trust

Now we come to the point where we’re talking about a trust which again, makes an inheritance a little different. When a person creates a trust they usually have a specific purpose in mind. This purpose may simply be to protect themselves and their property while they are alive. Most often, however, a trust is created because there’s some other member of the family that a person wants to protect. This could either be children who are young, or it could be a child or other family member or loved one who has a handicap or some other circumstance that makes giving them money or property directly a bad idea.

A trust works very similarly to a will except there is one major difference. Where a will requires a distribution to be made within about 6 to 8 months of a person’s probate being filed, a trust requires no probate and can go on into the future for many years. A trust is similar to a written last will and testament however in that it does allow the person who creates it to leave specific instructions about how and when money, property, or assets are transferred to individuals.

Enlist a Pocatello Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to Help You

Our experienced Estate Planning team of attorneys can help you and your family with your Pocatello 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 We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Pocatello Estate Planning and Probate problems.

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