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Idaho Estate Planning Do I Need A Trust If I Have A Will?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

In addition to drafting estate planning documents for clients I often have clients come into my office who already have an estate plan drafted by another attorney. In many instances these clients want me to review their current estate planning documents to make sure that they will do what they want them to do. This happens most often when the estate planning documents were written decades earlier and the circumstances of the lives of these clients have changed dramatically.

Whatever the reasons, I usually have the same question asked of me in several different ways. The first way it is asked is “If I have a written last will and testament do I need a trust?” The second way it is asked is “I already have a trust so do I still need it, or do I need a written Will instead?”

Through our knowledge and experience we are able to provide advice and counsel in answer to these and other questions about Idaho estate plans. Our team of Idaho estate planning attorneys is made up of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. We have been around for some time. This alone is not enough to qualify us to be considered one of the premier estate planning and probate firms in Idaho. Rather, it is our experience, skill and knowledge that gives us the ability to help when a person needs to create a customized estate plan for themselves or for a family member.

The focus of this article is to answer the simple question, do I need a trust if I have a will? We will start by talking about what the purpose of a written Will is. We will then talk about the fact that not everyone needs a trust based on the laws that exist today. Finally, we do talk about instances where a person does need a trust.

As you read this article that has helpful tips and advice in it, we ask you to keep in mind that no article can be exhaustive on these issues. We recognize this. Because of this, we offer a free 30-minute consultation for any client or person so they can ask their own specific questions and we can provide specific answers to them. We encourage you to contact us.

The Purpose of a Will

Every person needs a written Will. Really, an estate plan cannot be complete without a written Will. The reason for this is that a written Will has a very specific purpose or purposes associated with it.

First, a written Will is designed to allow a person to nominate and appoint a personal representative. This person is giving the legal authority to deal with the money, property, and other assets that are left behind when a person passes away. They are also given authority to deal with the decedent’s creditors.

The second thing that a written Will does is guide the probate process in paying the decedent’s debts. The decedent’s creditors, and the debts that exist when they pass away don’t just magically disappear because of their death. Rather, they continue to exist and before any property or money is distributed to any heirs or beneficiaries from the decedent’s estate, their legitimate debts must be paid, and their creditors must be taken care of.

The third thing that a written Will does is identify who the heirs or beneficiaries are. Once they are identified, the Will then authorizes a distribution from the estate to these heirs and beneficiaries. This is important even when a trust exists because it’s likely that there will be some money, assets, or property owned by the decedent when they die that aren’t already in a trust. One of the beneficiaries that a person can name in their written Will is a trust. However, if the trust is not named in the written Will, then the property that is outside of the Will will be distributed to different persons than possibly are named in the trust.

Not Everyone Needs a Trust

If you have a written Will you may not need a trust. In past decades, a trust was a useful estate planning tool that helped individuals avoid federal estate taxes. However, under current law, there is no federal estate tax unless an individual’s estate is valued higher than $11.4 million, and a couple has an estate valued at higher than $28.8 million. Most people don’t have to worry about that. Because of this, most people under current law do not need a trust.

When You Do Need a Trust

However, even if you don’t have a large estate, there may still be a need for a trust as part of your estate planning. You do need a trust if you have children who are under the age of 18. You may also need a trust if you have children who are disabled or handicapped in some way. Finally, a trust may be a useful estate planning tool for you if you have money, or property that you want to last several generations after you are gone.

During the free 30-minute consultation we offer to our clients, we review their specific circumstances and help them decide whether in fact they do or do not need a trust as part of their regular estate plan. In this review, we talk about children, we talk about the size and kind of a state that an individual has. We talk about whether they own real estate in different states. We also talk about what type and kind of legacy they may want to leave for their family.

All of these things help us determine whether a trust is needed or not. In other words, it’s during this free 30-minute consultation that we can help customize an estate plan for you that will meet all of your needs and take care of all of your wishes and intents.

We have assisted numerous clients over 70 years in creating customized estate plans. Because of our skill, knowledge, and experience, 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 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 pro

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