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Six Important Things to do Before You die

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Death and taxes are the only sure things in life. We are reminded of taxes every single year. However, until we have a loved one or family member pass away, we usually don’t spend much time thinking about death. But the reality is, it affects each of us individually.

As an estate planning attorney, my professional life is filled with opportunities to talk with other people about death, and making sure they have a plan that will both protect them while they are alive and provide for their family members and loved ones after they die.

I find that most people don’t get their estate planning done because they don’t know or where to start. If this is your situation, we encourage you to download and review our Estate Planning Questionnaire and schedule a free 30-minute consultation. We do this to help each client understand the importance and simplicity of completing their estate plan. Our Questionnaire provides a good deal of information to our clients about the estate planning options available to them based on their family and life circumstances, and about what each of these options means.

In addition to our Questionnaire, we have also compiled this list of six important things you can do before you die that will help you and your family.

1. Organize Your Debts

The first of these six things are that you organize your debts. This is important for you while you are alive because it will help you stay on top of your debts and make sure that everything is paid on time. If you don’t pay your debts on time often you accrue additional interest, late fees and charges, and other expenses.

This is also true after you pass away. If your family members do not know what your debts are, and don’t have any way of knowing who they should be contacting, then additional charges and expenses can occur. However, if you have your debts organized in a way that your family members can come into your home after you die and fully understand who your creditors are and how they need to be paid, this makes their job much simpler and saves a lot of time and money.

2. Create a List of Your Digital Assets

Next, you should create a list of all your digital assets. What we are really talking about here is your username and passwords for each one of your online accounts that have anything to do with your finances. You should create a list of each of these. These would include things such as your online banking accounts, your credit cards, PayPal accounts, Venmo accounts, and other digital or internet related ways you transfer or move money from one place to another.

This would also include any investment accounts, money market accounts, CDs, or other types of investments you have that are not retirement related. If your family does not know about these items, then they can’t access them. If that’s the case, it’s possible that your money that is sitting in these accounts will never be used by your family members or loved ones because they simply don’t know where they are or how to get to them.

3. Organize Your Non-Estate Assets

This leads us to your non estate assets which would include any life insurance and retirement accounts you have. These types of assets fall outside of your estate because they are controlled by the contracts you signed when you obtained them. For example, your life insurance policy gave you the opportunity to name someone as a beneficiary. When you die, this beneficiary is entitled to receive the proceeds from the life insurance policy. The life insurance company will make this payment directly to them, rather than placing those monies into your estate.

Similarly, retirement accounts such as 401ks, IRAs, pensions, and some annuities, are also controlled by contracts. However, none of these accounts will be turned over to your beneficiaries unless your beneficiaries are aware of them and can make a claim for them with the company that is administering them. Having a list of all of your non-estate assets, together with the information on who is administering them with the contact information will make the job of your family easier in collecting these monies.

4. Choose Someone to Help You While You are Alive

Perhaps the most important parts of your written estate plan are the documents that you can create that will protect and provide for you while you are alive. These include the durable power of attorney, the power of attorney for health care, and your living will. In these documents you have an opportunity to provide specific instructions about what you do and don’t want. You also have the opportunity to nominate individuals who will have the authority to take care of you if you are unable to do this for yourself.

If you do not have these documents your family is forced to go to court to do a guardianship and conservatorship proceeding. In this process the court decides who will be appointed to protect and provide for you. This could lead to a disagreement and legal fight among family members about who should be appointed which could be very expensive. Even when it goes smoothly, and everyone agrees on what should be done, this process is still several times more expensive than just getting your estate plan completed.

5. Choose Someone to Care for Your Estate After You Die

Similarly, part of your estate planning would include your last will and testament which is where you get to nominate a person as your personal representative. This person is given the responsibility to complete the probate process, pay all your debts and expenses, and then distribute your money, property, and other assets to the beneficiaries that you name.

When you do not have a written Will, the statutes in Idaho control who can be appointed as your personal representative and who automatically becomes your beneficiaries. In other words, you lose the ability to make these decisions for yourself.

6. Update Your Plans

Finally, the most important thing that you can do after you get your estate plan completed is to make sure that it is updated. Life has a way of going on. Every one of us goes through major life changes. These would include having someone be born or someone die, getting married or divorced, changing relationships with family or friends, moving to a new location and so forth. Any time any of these things happen, it could result in a need to update or change your estate plan.

I recommend to my clients that they read through their estate plan every three to four years. By doing this, if they have gone through a major life change, it will become immediately apparent. Additionally, my clients will know what changes they need to make.

And there you have it. The six most important things you can do when it comes to estate planning before you die. We do encourage you to contact us for a free 30-minute consultation. We have assisted numerous clients in creating, updating, and making sure their estate plan is prepared, and we are confident that we can help you too!


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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