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Idaho Estate Planning Protection for You in the 4 Phases of Life

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

When it comes to estate planning almost everyone I talk to has at least a basic idea of what a last will and testament does. However, most people are surprised to learn that estate planning is designed to not only give away their property, money and assets after they die through their will, but also to protect them while they are alive. Specifically, Estate Planning in Idaho is designed to give you the ability to make concrete decisions about What will happen to you and who will make decisions for you during all the different things that you may face from the time you become an adult until your death. We have helped numerous clients prepare their estate plan and we are confident that we can help you too.

The Idaho estate planning attorneys on the Racine Olson team have assisted clients in completing their customized estate plans for over 70 years. While estate planning is unique and should be customized to fit the individual needs of each person, there are basic parts of estate planning that every person should have. At the Racine law office our Idaho estate planning team is made up of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of our attorneys are experienced and have earned the highest rankings possible on Martindale-Hubbell, Justia, and AVVO, which are all legal reporting services that provide details on the skills and abilities of attorneys.

So what are the phases of life and how can estate planning help you through them? Below is a brief description of the phases in life that each adult could go through during their lifetime. In describing these phases, we also provide a description of how a estate planning can assist you through each of these phases.

Phase 1 - Adulthood

The first phase that you will enter is becoming an adult. In Idaho a person becomes a legal adult when they turn 18. From the age of 18 on a person has the legal ability to make decisions about their own life. This may include getting an education, getting married, having a family, starting a career and simply moving forward in doing the things that adults do to care for themselves, their family and their loved ones. This could include finances, property, debts and so forth.

During this phase of your life, having your estate planning complete provides you with peace of mind in knowing that if and when you enter into the other phases of life you will have a plan in place that will provide protection for yourself individually and will care for your family and loved ones as well.

For example, as part of your estate planning, you would have the ability to name guardians for any minor age children you have in the event both you and your spouse pass away. By doing this, you will have the assurance that you will be able to avoid family fighting and that you will have a plan in place that will be carried out to help your young children until they becomes adults themselves.

Phase 2 - Lack of Capacity

The second phase of life that you could enter is when you have a lack of capacity. Capacity is a legal word that lawyers use that simply means that you have the mental ability to understand and know what it is you are doing. For instance, most adults have the legal capacity to take care of their own finances which would include banking, paying bills, working, receiving wages, and simply dealing with everyday financial matters. The problem with capacity is that it could be lost.

A person loses legal capacity when they can no longer carry out the basic financial functions that an adult can accomplish. For example, if a person has Alzheimer’s disease, their long-term memory may still function, but their short-term memory may no longer work. Additionally, and individual may no longer comprehend the nuances of their finances including how and when income comes to them, how money is handled in their bank accounts, and the creditors that need to be paid. Legal capacity could be lost at any age, and through any type of injury or illness.

A complete estate plan will protect an individual even if they were to lose capacity by helping them through their powers of attorney. The durable power of attorney for property and finances gives you the ability to name somebody who will take care of all the things that you do in your day-to-day life that you may no longer be capable of doing. Additionally, a power of attorney for health care gives you the ability to name somebody to make healthcare and medical decisions for you if you can no longer comprehend or understand what needs to be done.

If you do not have a complete estate plan, which includes a durable power of attorney, and a power of attorney for health care, then the courts in Idaho will require a guardianship proceeding to be completed for you. During a guardianship proceeding the courts make a decision about who will be appointed to take care of your finances and property. In other words, the ability to choose who you want no longer exists. Rather, the court will make this decision for you without regard to who you would have chosen.

This type of Court proceeding is expensive and could lead to arguments or disagreements between well-meaning family members who do not agree on who should be appointed for you. As a result, we recommend that each of our clients get at least a basic estate plan completed that would include these powers of attorney so they have the ability to make these decisions for themselves.

Phase 3 - End of Life

The third phase that could happen to an adult is the end of life. In other words, if due to an injury or illness you are in a hospital towards the end of your life, your estate planning would give you the ability to provide very specific instructions to your health care providers about what you do want, and what you do not want. The document that is used to carry this out is known as a living will.

In order for a living will to become effective, the following circumstances must exist:

  • You are in the hospital and either are on life support or the doctors are considering putting you on life support;
  • You have a terminal condition that the doctors have diagnosed and which they say you are not going to recover from;
  • The doctors have stated that if they turn the life-support machines off your death is imminent; and
  • You cannot communicate with your doctor’s because you are either unconscious or because you do not have the capacity to understand what is going on.

If all these criteria are met, then your living will becomes legally affective. In your living will you have the ability to give specific instructions to your doctors and other healthcare providers. You could choose in your living will to have your doctors keep you on every mechanism and every life support machine to keep you alive as long as possible. Or, alternatively, you could instruct your doctors that if this is your condition you want them to turn off all the machines and to allow you to die normally and naturally.

The bottom line is that you are given the ability to provide specific instructions to your healthcare providers that they are required to follow. This takes the decision-making process off the shoulders of your family and loved ones and allows you to make those decisions for yourself.

Phase 4 - Death

The final phase that every adult will go through is death. When a person dies, all the other documents listed above which include the durable power of attorney, the power of attorney for health care, and the living will, all cease to have any power or authority. Rather, the estate document that becomes effective is your last will and testament. There are three main purposes for a last will and testament. Each of these will be described below.

The first purpose of your last will and testament is to give you the ability to identify and name the person you want to act as your personal representative. The personal representative, which some people call the executive order, is the individual who is required to take care of all your property, money, and assets, and to carry out the instructions you have left in your last will and testament. Typically, your personal representative is the individual who begins and completes the probate process so that your property can be transferred to whoever you say it is to go to.

The second purpose of your last will and testament is to make sure that all your debts and expenses are paid. The law in Idaho requires that all of your creditors be paid before any distributions are made to any family members or other loved ones. Your personal representative will make sure that all of your creditors are identified, and that all legitimate debts are paid.

The final purpose of your last will and testament is to give you the ability to describe specifically who you want all your money, property, and other assets to be distributed to after your creditors are paid. Typically, this would include your family members and other loved ones. It could also include charities, or other people that you know. Regardless of who you describe to receive your estate, the law in Idaho is designed to make sure that the intentions set forth in your will are carried out.

ENLIST AN IDAHO ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU

If you have questions about how estate planning could 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. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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