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Idaho Estate Planning Answers to Basic Questions About Inheritance

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

I enjoy being an Idaho estate planning lawyer. One of the biggest benefits of helping individuals with their estate plans, is that whenever I meet somebody new I always have a topic that can lead to a good conversation. Most people understand a little bit about estate planning, but usually they don’t really know much that is of any benefit. However, I’ve found that most people have at least some basic questions about estate planning, including the basic documents that are needed in an estate plan which are a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a power of attorney for health care.

At the Racine law office, our team of Idaho estate planning attorneys have experience and can help you with any questions you have about your own estate-planning. Our knowledgeable and skilled Idaho estate planning team includes partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of our attorneys has received the highest ratings possible on all of the major legal ranking services. We also received high marks from our clients and other legal professionals we work with.

The purpose of this article is to list just a few of the basic estate planning questions that people ask me when they learn what I do for a living. This article is not designed to be exhaustive on these questions, but we will at least provide a basic answer to each of the questions posed below. If you have any additional questions, please download our Estate Planning Questionnaire, and then contact us. I am confident we can answer your questions.

1. How Much can an Inheritance be Without Having to pay Taxes?

This is a good question and it seems to be on a lot of people’s minds. Many people have heard of estate taxes or death taxes but they don’t really know what they are, or how they work. The good news is that unless you are extremely wealthy, as of the writing of this article (October 2019), you probably don’t have anything to worry about.

Under both federal and Idaho law, an inheritance tax will not be levied, unless an individual dies with an estate that is larger than $11.4 million. When it comes to a married couple, that amount is doubled, to $22.8 million.

If your estate is larger than this, then congratulations! You will need to do some good estate planning to make sure that you can protect your estate property and distribute it to the individuals you want it to go to. If your estate is not this large, then you have nothing to worry about. There will be no inheritance tax owed by either your estate or by the individual who receives any money, property, or other assets from your estate after you pass away.

2. Does My Will Control My Life Insurance or IRA?

The short answer to this question is no. Your last will and testament will not control your life insurance or your IRA or your 401k or any pensions or annuities that you might own. The reason for this is that each of these items is created by a contract. A part of this contract includes a specific beneficiary form that is signed when you open this account. This beneficiary form can also be changed by you at any time.

When you pass away, the holder of the beneficiary form (like the life insurance company) is required by contract law to distribute the money, property, or other assets that it is holding on your behalf to the individuals you designated as your beneficiaries. Because of this, even if your last will and testament says something contrary, it’s the contract that controls.

The point here is to make sure that your beneficiary form is filled out. Additionally, it’s important for you to update your beneficiary forms, anytime there is a major change in your life.

3. I Just got a Divorce, do I Need to Change My Will?

Speaking of major changes in your life, this brings us to the third question listed above that I’m often asked. If you have received a divorce, then YES, you need to change your last will and testament, and your beneficiary forms, and your powers of attorney and any other documents or forms that have any control over your money, property, or other assets.

A divorce is a major life change. In addition to a divorce, other major life changes could include someone being born, someone dying, a marriage, or someone moving away. If any of these things happen either to you or to a member of your family that is part of your estate plan, you should review your estate plan to make sure that it still does what you want it to do. By reading it, you will see right away, whether a change is necessary.

For example, let’s say that on your beneficiary form for your life insurance you listed your wife. However, you recently divorced your wife. Now you no longer want your ex-wife to be the beneficiary of your life insurance. This will jump out at you and you will know that you need to make a change immediately by simply reading your beneficiary form.

4. Do I Have to let My Family Know What I did in My Estate Plan?

This is a question that parents ask me all the time. Usually, it’s because their children are the ones that are prompting them to get their estate planning done in the first place. Additionally, in many instances, the children will actually come to my office with their parents as we discuss and work on their plan.

Whenever this happens, I have to make sure that the children and the parents all know who it is that I represent. If I am helping the parents get their estate planning done, then I represent the parents. The children are not represented by me. Because of this, I have no legal duty or obligation to even talk with the children about the parents’ estate plan unless the parents give me permission to do this.

Additionally, the parents have no legal obligation to talk with their own kids about their estate plan, or to even show them what their document are unless they want to. So, when parents ask me this question, I simply ask them “Do you want to show it to them or not?” If the answer is no then I tell them don’t share it with them. You have no obligation to do this and they have no right to see it unless you want them to.

5. Does Probate Still Happen if I Have a Written Will?

The question about whether probate still happens if there is a written last will and testament comes to me often. To put it simply, whether or not there is a written last will and testament has no impact on whether a probate is required.

In Idaho, a probate is required anytime a person passes away when their name is on the deed or title to real estate regardless of whether it is a home, farm ground, ranch ground, even just bare ground. Additionally, if a person’s estate is valued at $100,000 or more when they pass away, even when there is no real estate involved, then a probate is required by Idaho law.

These are just a few of the types of questions I am frequently asked when people learn that I am an Idaho estate planning attorney. If you have any other questions that you would like to have answered, I’m confident that we can help you too! Please download our free Estate Planning Questionnaire, or contact us to setup a free 30-minute consultation where we can answer your questions.

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 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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