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Idaho Estate Planning Estate Planning Myths That Need to be Obliterated - Part 4

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

When I originally began doing the estate planning myths, I anticipated it being a 3 to 4 part series. I was pretty confident that within a short series of articles I could tackle all the myths that I have dealt with as a lawyer. However, as I made my list of the myths that I wanted to discuss, I saw that there were far more that needed to be discussed. So, while this is part 4 of the series, it won’t be the last article dealing with estate planning myths.

The good news is, that most of the myths are pretty simple to debunk. It usually takes a few explanatory sentences to explain why it is a myth in the first place and what the truth really is.

I do encourage you to go back and read parts 1, 2 and 3, to make sure that you’re not overlooking any of the important myths that were previously discussed.

Additionally, when it comes to estate planning, it’s important to always start at the beginning. Because of this, we encourage you to download our free Estate Planning Questionnaire and use it as a way of compiling all the information you need to begin your own estate plan. Even if you already have an estate plan in place, using our questionnaire will answer many of your questions and will help you know whether your current state plan meets all of the needs you have.

We would then be happy to schedule a free 30 minute consultation with you where we will review the information in your Questionnaire and answer any questions you have. This is the single best way for you to gather information that would be best for you, your family, and loved ones. Best of all, it’s free.

If I Use a Trust Then No Probate is Needed

The first myth that we will tackle in today’s Part 4 of the series is that if you use a trust then no probate is needed after you pass away. As a reminder, a probate is required in Idaho anytime a person passes away when they have their name on the deed or title to any type or kind of real estate. This could be at home, or farm ground, or even bare ground. It doesn’t matter what it’s value is. If your name is on the deed to that real estate, and you pass away, then a probate is required.

Additionally, a probate is required in Idaho if the total value of the estate that you own in your personal name is worth $100,000 or more when you pass away. This would include vehicles, bank accounts, personal property, and any other items you own that have value.

A trust is often used as a way of avoiding probate. This is possible but only if it is used correctly. A trust is like a pie. The trust documents once they are completed and signed, are like a pie crust. However, until you actually put something into the pie crust, you don’t actually have a pie. A trust is the same. Having the trust documents created means that you are ready now to transfer items into the trust. However, until you do, the trust is nothing more than just a pie crust.

Even with a trust, if you still personally own real estate when you die because it was never transferred into the trust that was created, then a probate will be required. Additionally, even with the trust, if the total value of property you still own in your personal name is worth $100,000 or more, then a probate will still be required after you pass away.

In other words, the key in using a trust to avoid probate is to make sure that you have transferred all your real estate into it, and enough of the rest of your property so that you don’t own more than $100,000 in your personal name. If you meet these two criteria, then the trust will help you avoid probate.

Again, to help make sure your trust will help you avoid probate we encourage you to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with us. We can review your trust, and make sure that it will help you avoid probate.

If I Make an Estate Plan I Won’t Be Able To Change It

The second myth that we will tackle today is about changing your estate plan. Some people are under the mistaken belief that once they have their estate plan in place, it can never be changed. This is completely false.

Any competent person can create an estate plan. Competence is a fancy legal word that lawyers use that simply means that the person understands what they are doing and they have the legal ability to do it.

A competent person can also change, update, or eliminate the estate plan they have created. In fact, the actual estate planning documents themselves all say that the owner has the ability to revoke or change the documents. In fact, we encourage our clients to update their estate plan anytime they experience a major life change. This would include a family member being bored, a family member dying, a marriage, divorce, someone moving away, or just the passage of a long period of time. Any of these things can change how your plan should work. Because of this, you can change your plan to make it work the way you want.

I Need to Plan How My Will is Read to My Family

This is one of my favorite myths. It is constantly perpetuated by TV and movies. In fact, the recent movie, Knives Out, is an example of the perpetuation of this myth.

The scenario with all these TV shows and movies is the same. A family member passes away, and the entire family has gathered together either in the house, or at a lawyer’s office for a dramatic reading of the will. I can tell you with a great deal of authority, this sort of situation rarely if ever happens.

I’ve been an estate planning attorney for more than 20 years, and I don’t believe there’s ever been a situation where I have had to read a will to a family that resulted in shock, surprise, gasps, or some other type of drama. The reason for this is that usually my clients have chosen family members to act as their personal representative and take care of their estate after they pass away. Because of this, the family almost always knows what is in the will already.

So, unless you have a flair for the dramatic, there is no need to plan how your Will will be read to your family. It is something your family should already know about, or if they don’t, it likely won’t come as much of a surprise to them.

If after reading these articles about estate planning meals you have questions, we encourage you to contact us. We would be happy to discuss your questions through a free 30-minute consultation. We have assisted numerous clients in creating their own estate plan, or helping a family with probate, and 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 problems.

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