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Should You Try to Avoid Probate in Idaho?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an estate planning and probate attorney I recognize that my clients won’t understand and know as much about these things as I do. The reason they have come to me is because I am an expert in this area and have the ability to help them with all of their estate planning and probate needs.

It’s important to me that I help my clients create a customized estate plan that meets their specific needs. Additionally, when a client is in need of probate services, my goal is to make the process as simple and easy to understand as possible.

To help each of our individual clients we provide a free Estate Planning Questionnaire that guides our clients through all of the things that should be considered and planned for. We also assist family members after a family member or loved one has passed away by providing a free 30-minute consultation to discuss the probate process in Idaho and all the steps that need to be completed to properly care for the decedent’s estate. This includes paying all the debts and expenses that come up because of the decedent’s death and those that existed before as well as determining who the heirs of the decedent are and what items from the estate they will inherit.

The purpose of this article is to discuss the issue of whether you should try to avoid a probate in Idaho. I find this question comes up with clients regularly, particularly those who have moved to Idaho from other states. This article will discuss what a probate actually is, and when a probate has to be done. We will then talk about the costs and expenses of a probate, and the time involved in getting one done. All of this information will help you understand the probate process and whether avoiding a probate is the best idea for you and your family.

What a Probate Actually Is

To start off, a probate is the court process where an individual is appointed by the court to be the personal representative or executor of the estate. Once this happens, this person has legal authority to represent the estate of the person who passed away and to do all the things that are required to be done.

If a person has a written last will and testament, they can nominate who they want to have appointed as their personal representative. If they do not have a written will, then the intestacy laws of Idaho will determine who can be appointed as the personal representative.

There are many steps involved in a probate. I will summarize and describe the steps very simply. The first steps, as set forth above, are to get the personal representative appointed. The next steps in the probate process are two notify all creditors of the decedent and to process all claims that are made by creditors. In other words, the personal representative has the duty and obligation to make sure that all the debts, obligations, and expenses of the person who passed away are paid from the estate before any portion of the estate is distributed to anyone else.

Once creditors are taken care of, then the personal representative is required to prepare written reports that show all of the items that belonged to the estate when the decedent died. This report also shows all the expenses and debts that were paid. Finally, this report will show who the beneficiaries are of the estate that will inherit the items that were made. This report will show what percentage each of these beneficiaries will receive from the estate.

After the report is completed, the personal representative makes the distributions to the beneficiaries. Once all the money, property, and other assets from the decedent have been distributed to the heirs, then the personal representative can make a final report to the court indicating that they have done everything they were required to do. At this stage, the court will then close the probate and the process will be over.

When a Probate Must be Done

The next question is: when do you need to do a probate? A probate is required in Idaho anytime a person passes away when they have their name on a deed or title to any type or kind of real estate. In other words, if a person owns a home, or farm ground, or a summer cabin, or any type of real estate, then a probate needs to be completed in order to transfer that ownership interest for that property from the person who passed away to those who are still alive.

Additionally, even if no real estate owned by the decedent, a probate still needs to be completed anytime the total value of the estate is worth $100,000 or more. This would include all of the money, property and assets in the estate.

Costs and Expenses of Probate

Many people feel like they should avoid probate if at all possible because of the costs and expenses that are involved. I found that most people feel this way usually because they have either moved to Idaho from another state where probate was very expensive, or they have family or friends who live in other states who have had to pay the costs of probate and have heard horror stories about how expensive it is.

The good news is that a probate in Idaho is not very expensive. In some states, the cost of a probate as a percentage of the value of the estate. For instance, in many states they charge a 6% fee based on the total value of the estate. If the total value of the estate is $500,000, then the cost of the probate would be $30,000. If a person has been through this experience, it’s easy to see why they would be motivated to avoid probate!

Fortunately, Idaho is not like this. In Idaho, the costs of a probate will likely be very much the same regardless of whether an estate is small, or whether it’s worth several million dollars. Typically, the total costs of doing a probate in Idaho are usually somewhere between about $1,500 to about $3,500 depending on the type of probate that needs to be completed. This amount includes the court filing fee, the costs of notifying creditors such as publishing notice in the newspaper, all the certified notices that have to be made, as well as the attorney fees.

The only time the costs of a probate are more are when there are family fights, or when there is a fight with a creditor about a debt owed by the decedent. While these two things do happen from time to time, they don’t happen very often. Other than these two things, typically most probates are very simple to complete and very inexpensive, at least in comparison with most other states.

Time Involved in Probate

The final question that people often ask me is how long does it take to complete a probate. This question really depends on the type or kind of probate that is going to be done. However, typically, in most situations, a probate can be completed within six to eight months.

In providing that timeline, it’s important that you understand that this doesn’t mean the personal representative can’t do anything for six to eight months. Rather, the personal representative is taking care of everything during this six to eight months. It’s at the end of the six to eight months when the probate will be finished.

The question in the title of this article is should you try to avoid probate in Idaho. The direct answer to this question is that you probably don’t need to worry about it. The main reasons that people want to avoid probate, which are high costs and the length of time before anything can be done, usually don’t exist in Idaho. However, if you have questions about your particular circumstances, we encourage you to contact us for the free 30-minute consultation. By doing this we can answer your questions and help you determine what would be the best process for you and your family.

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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