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The 10 Commandments of Idaho Estate Planning

Our goal for over 70 years has been to provide the highest quality estate planning services to our clients to solve their problems at a reasonable price. We take pride in the fact that the team of Idaho estate planning attorneys at the Racine Law Offices work with each client individually to create a custom Idaho estate plan that will meet their specific needs. Through our experience, knowledge, and abilities, we consider ourselves to be the premier Idaho estate planning Law Firm.

Our team of Idaho estate planning attorneys consists of partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Each of the attorneys on our Idaho estate planning team have earned the highest client reviews possible which result in premier ratings at the major legal ranking services of Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO, and Justia.

Through our experiences we have come to know that there are many things that you can do to make sure that your estate planning is exactly where it should be. Below are the ten commandments of Idaho estate planning that every person who lives in Idaho should consider.

1. Thou Shalt not do it Yourself

The number one commandment is that you should not try to do your estate planning yourself. There are many times that clients will bring to us the estate planning that their loved one completed before they died. There have been several times that we have had no choice but to inform our clients that the last will and testament or other estate planning document that their loved one created is actually not valid and cannot be followed. This has often resulted in increased expenses, heartache with the survivors and the family, and other problems which must be dealt with.

I often tell my clients that they are far better off to spend a little bit of money up front to prevent problems than spending a lot of money at the end to solve problems that have come up. For this reason, we always recommend that you do not do your estate planning yourself, but that you seek out the advice and help of professionals to make sure that it is done correctly.

2. Thou Shalt Get a Complete Estate Plan

The next most important thing is to make sure that when you do your estate planning you get an actual complete estate plan. A basic Idaho state plan consist of the following documents: a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, a living will, and a power of attorney for health care.

These basic Idaho estate planning documents create a complete estate plan. This plan not only allows you to decide who will receive your money and property after you die, it also provides very specific protections for you while you are alive. All of these protections can provide you and your family with peace of mind and knowing that you have solved many problems before they arise. Additionally, a complete Idaho state plan can save your family a great deal of expense if problems arise.

3. Thou Shalt Update Your Estate Plan Regularly

However, having a complete Idaho estate plan is only one part of the equation. Life does not stand still. There is constant change occurring all around us including in our own lives. Our loved ones can move away, or can die, they can get a divorce, or can get married, in addition to the fact that someone may be born or that our relationships with others can change. Because of these things it is important that you review your Idaho estate plan regularly so you can determine whether it needs to be changed or updated to meet your current needs.

Specifically, we suggest to each of our clients that they review their estate plan at least every five years. By doing this you can see remind yourself of what your plan is and can then see whether it will still work for you. If you find that your estate plan will no longer work, you have the ability to make the changes you need to make so that it will work for you.

4. Thou Shalt Protect Your Minor Aged & Special Needs Children

One of the most important things for you to accomplish with your Idaho estate plan is to protect your minor age children and any children you have with special needs. This includes naming Guardians for your children in the event that you and your spouse pass away. Additionally, you should consider how the finances which includes the money, property and assets that you may leave behind can be used to help your children until they become responsible adults. This can be accomplished through a testamentary trust.

Additionally, many families have children with special needs. As a result, it may be necessary as part of your Idaho estate plan to create a trust for your special needs child that can help them during their entire lifetime. This will require some thought and some precision in making sure that it is done correctly.

5. Thou Shalt not put Your Children's Names on the Deeds to Your Real Property

We find that many times well meeting parents will put their children's names on the deeds to their real estate. This is a huge mistake. When this occurs, the parents often lose the homestead exemption that they would have had previously. The end result of this is likely that their property taxes will go up. More importantly, with the children's names on the deeds of the real property, any of the children's creditors can now come in and take a part of the home or real property away to pay off or satisfy the children's debts.

The best way to deal with real estate is to simply list it in your last will and testament or trust and describe specifically who you want that property to go to. After you pass away, during the probate process or through the administration of the trust, this is when the title or deed to the property will change and will be put in the names of the children. This allows the parent to continue to own the property during their lifetime and to enjoy and protect it until they die.

6. Thou Shalt not put Your Children's Names on Your Bank Accounts

Similarly, parents should never name their children to their own bank accounts. Rather parent should keep their own bank accounts separate and only in their name. This does not eliminate a parent's ability to get help from their child with their bank accounts when they need it. Rather, a parent can utilize the durable power of attorney discussed above which should be a basic part of their estate plan as a way of allowing their children to access their bank accounts while the parents are alive to give them help.

By using a durable power of attorney, the parents eliminate the risk of having the children's creditors take the bank account away. Additionally, this allows the parent to use their last will and testament as a mechanism for naming the children who will receive the bank account after they die.

7. Thou Shalt Choose Your Personal Representatives & Powers of Attorney Wisely

Additionally, anytime you are creating your own estate plan you need to be very careful about the individuals that you name to do things for you. The people that you name usually include the personal representative, who deals with your property after you die, and your power of attorney, which are the people who deal with your property and help you with it while you are alive.

It's obvious that the individuals that you named are going to have a good deal of power over your property, money, and assets. For this reason, you should choose people that you trust to do what you want them to do. Additionally, handling these kinds of things is not necessarily easy for everybody. You should consider whether the people you want to name have the actual skill and ability to do what you want them to do. Just because a person is your child, does it necessarily mean that they are qualified or that they have the ability to handle being your personal representative or to hold your power of attorney.

8. Thou Shalt Keep Your Estate Planning Organized

This one should be obvious. It really doesn't do any good if you have a wonderful estate plan completed if it's not organized and, in a location, where your family can find it when they need it. The world's greatest last will and testament or power of attorney is meaningless unless it can be located and used. When we complete an estate plan for a client we organize everything into an estate planning binder that our clients can use and keep so that they and their family will know exactly where their estate planning documents are located. Really any filing system at all is better than nothing. Additionally, you need to consider whether you should talk with your children about your estate planning so that they are aware that it exists and know where it is located.

We also find that in addition to having a complete Idaho estate plan, many parents will also leave a letter of instructions. This letter of instructions often includes people who need to be contacted, as well as information about life insurance, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and other assets that may need to be located. It doesn't take much time to put this kind of letter together but it can save a lot of time for your family after you pass away.

9. Thou Shalt Regularly Review Beneficiary Listings on Insurance and Retirement Accounts

There are several parts of your life that really are not included in your estate planning documents but that are an important part of your own estate planning. These usually include life insurance and retirement accounts. The reason these are not included in your estate planning documents is because they are handled under a contract with a third-party. After you die, the third party is required to follow the terms and conditions of the contract and to make sure that the money or property they held for you is given to the beneficiaries that you list in the contract.

Both life insurance and retirement account contracts include a designation of beneficiary form. You have the ability to list who you want the money or property to be delivered to upon your death. You also have the ability to change your beneficiary form anytime you want. For this reason, it is a good idea for you to review the beneficiary forms that you have to make sure that the people you have named are still the individuals you want your money or property to be given to after you die.

10. Thou Shalt Plan for Long-Term Care Expenses

The final thing that you should consider is your own long-term care expenses. As a group of people we are living longer now than any generation before us. This is awesome, but it also brings other problems that we have to deal with including long-term care. It may be that you are a state is large enough that you can handle the expenses of long-term care without any concern. However, most people don't fit into this category. For the rest of us it would be important to consider whether we should purchase long-term care insurance, or have some other planning completed that will provide for us in our later years.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to Help You

Our experienced Estate Planning team of attorneys can help you and your family with your Idaho estate plan or with your probate needs. Whether you are seeking your own customized Estate Plan or are in need of a Probate for a loved one who has passed, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with the Racine Olson team. You can also email us directly at racine@racinelaw.net. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning and Probate problems.

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