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Idaho Estate Planning: You Have an Estate Plan - What do You do now?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

If you are reading this article it is likely because you already have your estate-planning completed. Congratulations! You have now done more than 73% of what most adults in America do when it comes to completing their own estate planning. You should feel a sense of relief. You should also feel some assurance that you have a good plan in place that will protect you while you are alive and give you the ability to distribute your money, property, and other assets to whoever you want after you pass away.

However, are you done? The short answer is no!

The attorneys on the Racine Olson team have assisted clients in completing their customized Idaho estate plans for more than 70 years. Our 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. We provide this information simply to let you know that we are both qualified and able to help you with all of your estate planning needs.

One of those needs is to help you keep your estate-planning updated, and also to provide you with information that will help you and your family when it comes to your plan. The purpose of this article is to describe some of the basic things that you should still be aware of even though you got things done. Below is a list of the things that you should continue to be aware of and take care of when it comes to your estate plan.

Review Your Beneficiary Designations

Even though you’ve completed a plan, you should still review your beneficiary designations. The reason for this is that beneficiary designations are usually not controlled by your last will and testament or trust. Rather, beneficiary designations are independent of your estate planning documents.

The beneficiary designations we are talking about would include those that you would have on your life insurance, your 401k, your IRA, or Roth IRA, and possibly a pension plan. Additionally, beneficiary designations are made on annuities, and sometimes on bank accounts or other types of financial accounts that aren’t already listed above.

A beneficiary designation is part of the contract you have with the company who is doing one of the things listed above for you. This part of the contract gives you the ability to list the person or persons you want as your beneficiaries who will receive the benefit of the contract if you pass away.

For example, if you have a 401k account through your employer, you have the ability to list a beneficiary who will receive the money and investments in your 401k if you were to pass away. This designation will control even if you said in your will that some other person was to receive your 401k. The reason for this, is that the contract trumps everything you set forth in your estate planning.

Be Aware of Major Life Changes

When it comes to your estate planning you should also be aware of the fact that life does not stand still. Everyone goes through changes. Because of this, if you go through a major life change, you should review your written estate plan to make sure that it still does what it is you want it to do.

For example, some of the major life changes that could occur are either a marriage or a divorce. If that happens to you, after you have your estate planning done, now the structure of your family has changed. Because of this, it’s likely that a change will need to be made to your estate planning documents. The same could be true of other major life changes that could happen to you including a birth, death, someone moving away, or other things that simply happen with the passage of time.

The simplest thing to do is to review your estate plan from time to time. If you have gone through a major life change, you will immediately recognize that your estate plan no longer does what you probably want it to do. This will give you the ability to make the changes that need to be done and keep your estate plan updated.

Keep Your Original Documents Safe

You also need to keep your estate planning documents safe. It really doesn’t do you any good to have a completed estate plan, if no one can find it, or if it is somehow lost or destroyed. Because of this, when we complete an estate plan for a client, we usually keep the original will in our fireproof filing system. We provide an organized estate planning binder to our clients that have copies of all the estate planning documents in it. There is a letter in this binder that describes where the original documents are located.

The key is simply to keep your documents safe but also keep them accessible by your family members if they are needed. If you put your estate planning documents in a safety deposit box, and no one knows that you have done this, it’s possible that your estate will be distributed completely before your estate planning documents will be located. Keeping your estate planning documents safe, but not hidden, is the ideal goal.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Finally, when it comes to estate planning it’s vitally important that you communicate with your family members and loved ones what you have done. This does not mean that you have to disclose everything that you have done. Rather, it is simply a good idea to disclose that you have completed your estate-plan.

It would also be helpful if you could explain to your family who you had help you prepare your estate plan. Even if your family can’t locate your documents, if they know the lawyer that you worked with, they will likely be able to get information about your after you pass away. If your family can locate your estate planning documents, knowing the lawyer that helped prepare them also helps your family. This is because your family can now go to that lawyer and ask about probate, and other things that may need to be done in order to carry out the wishes you have declared in your will.

So again, congratulations on getting your estate-planning done. The hard part is now over. It is important that you keep your estate planning current, and that you communicate with your family as well. We have helped numerous clients complete their estate planning and make sure that it stays updated as well. If you have questions, we are confident 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 lane@racineolson.com 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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