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Idaho Estate Planning the 7 Purposes of an Idaho Probate

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an Idaho estate planning and probate attorney I often find that most people don’t understand what the purposes of probate are. In fact, I find that most people have negative thoughts and ideas about probate simply because they do not understand what it does to help in taking care of their family or their loved ones. It’s for this reason that I enjoy providing a consultation to my clients to help them understand the purposes of probate and how it can help them.

Our goal in fact is to help all of our clients have peace of mind knowing that they have prepared a customized and complete estate plan that will assist their family and loved ones after they have passed away. For over 70 years, our team of premier Idaho estate planning attorneys have helped clients and their families create solid customized estate plans. We have also helped family and loved ones through the probate process when they have a loved one who passes away.

Our team of Idaho Estate Planning and probate attorneys consists 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 ratings possible on Martindale-Hubbell, Justia, and AVVO, which are all legal ranking services that provide details on the knowledge, experience and skills of attorneys.

My goal through this article is to help you understand the probate process a little bit more thoroughly. Additionally, my hope is that by providing the 7 purposes of an Idaho probate you will see that the probate process actually has many benefits for family members and loved ones.

Purpose 1 - Determine Who the Heirs are

The first purpose of a probate is to determine who the heirs are for the person who passed away. These people are often called “beneficiaries” because they may not actually even have any particular relationship with the decedent. The beneficiaries of a person who passed away are most easily determined when there is a written last will and testament. The reason for this is that the person who creates the will has the ability to list the names or charities that they want to receive their money, property, and assets after they pass away.

When there is no written last will and testament then a person has died intestate. When this occurs, Idaho’s intestate statutes determine who the heirs and beneficiaries of the decedent will be. This is almost always determined based on actual relationship such as spouse, child, parent, and so forth. In any event, regardless of whether there is a written last will and testament or not, a probate will help determine who the beneficiaries and heirs are.

Purpose 2 - Provide Notice to All Interested Parties

In addition to identifying who the heirs and beneficiaries are after a person has passed away, a second purpose of probate is to provide actual notice to these individuals about the person’s death, that a probate has been started, and the fact that they are an heir or a beneficiary of the decedent’s estate. Once an heir or beneficiary has been notified, they have the ability to follow the progress of the probate and make sure that the right steps are occurring in probate so that they actually receive the money, property, or assets that the decedent indicated should go to them.

Purpose 3 - Appoint a Personal Representative

The next purpose of a probate is to allow a court to officially appoint a personal representative. In a probate, no one has the ability to take any action in dealing with the money, property, or assets of the estate or in dealing with creditors until a personal representative is appointed by the court. Once this appointment occurs, this person now has legal Authority to handle all estate assets, and to deal with all estate creditors and debts.

If a person has a written last will and testament, they have the ability to nominate who their personal representative will be. They could also nominate successors if the first person they choose is either unable or unwilling to serve as the personal representative. When there is no written last will and testament, then the laws of intestacy again will determine who the personal representative will be. These statutes place the highest priority on a surviving spouse, then children, then other relatives. There is even a provision in the statutes that allows a creditor to become the personal representative of an individual’s estate if no other person is able or willing to serve.

Purpose 4 - Locate and Gain Control of All Estate Property

A personal representative, once appointed by the court, is authorized to take control of all money, property, and assets of the estate. Additionally, the personal representative can pay debts and deal with creditors of the estate. In order to do this, the fourth purpose of a probate comes into play, which is to locate and gain control of all estate property.

Estate property could include actual money, property, or other assets. These categories would include real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, investment accounts, other investments, personal property, and all other kinds and types of assets that a person may own. The personal representative has authority to gain control and possession of all of these items in order to protect and preserve them through the probate process.

Purpose 5 - Identify All Creditors and Pay All Valid Debts

Additionally, another major reason for a probate to be completed is that it allows all creditors to be identified and all valid debts to be paid. As was set forth above, once appointed, the personal representative has the ability to publish notice to creditors and to deal with other creditors that are already known. The personal representative has specific legal authority to satisfy any valid debts that are owed from the estate to creditors or to negotiate these debts in order for them to be paid and satisfied. In fact, prior to making any distributions of any estate assets to any beneficiaries, the personal representative is required to make sure that all debts have been satisfied.

In dealing with debts, the personal representative can challenge or disallow a debt if they believe that it is not valid. In this instance then the creditor can file a claim with the court and Court proceedings will be held to determine the validity of the debt before a personal representative would be required to pay it. Again, in this way, the personal representative can protect and preserve the assets of the estate to make sure they go to valid debts and to all valid beneficiaries.

Purpose 6 - Appoint a Guardian for All Minor Aged Children

Yet another reason for completing a probate is to make sure that a guardian is actually appointed for any children of the decedent who are under the age of 18. To be clear, a guardianship will not be appointed unless the children are considered orphans. This means that both natural parents have passed away and that there currently are no legal guardians for the minor aged child or children. When this occurs, an individual has the ability to nominate a guardian in their written last will and testament. Through the probate process, the guardianship would be established and the minor age children would be placed with the guardians who are nominated by the decedent and appointed by the court.

Purpose 7 - Distribute the Decedent’s Property, Money and Assets

The final main reason for a probate is to make sure that the decedent’s property, assets, and money, are distributed to the beneficiaries they have listed or the law identifies. Again, an individual through a written last will and testament could be very specific about the assets they want to be delivered to certain beneficiaries. These beneficiaries could be family members, other loved ones, or charities or other individuals or groups.

When there is no written last will and testament, the laws of intestacy will determine who the beneficiaries will be. Additionally, the intestacy statutes also identify how a decedent’s estate is distributed to the beneficiaries that are identified. It is the probate process that accomplishes this and allows the personal representative to actually make the distributions of the estate assets.

As you can see, there are many reasons for the probate process. Additionally, none of these reasons are negative. Rather, all of these purposes are designed to allow for an organized and controlled distribution of the decedent’s estate two others, after all valid debts have been paid. We have assisted numerous clients in completing a probate for their family or loved ones, 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 consultation. Call us toll free at 877.232.6101 or 208.232.6101 for a 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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