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The Ten Commandments of Pocatello Estate Planning

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

At the Racine Law Office, our team of Pocatello estate planning attorneys have provided the highest quality estate planning services to clients for over 70 years. We are knowledgeable and experienced and have been able to help each client create their own customized estate plan to meet their individual needs. Our team of Pocatello attorneys includes partners Randy Budge and Lane Erickson and attorneys Nate Palmer and Dave Bagley. Both our current and our past clients provide the highest ratings possible to each of the attorneys on our team. When you think about it, having satisfied clients is the highest endorsement any lawyer can have to evidence their knowledge, expertise, experience and skill.

Our goal in helping you complete your estate plan is to make sure that you have exactly what you need and what you want. We take pride in the fact that we don’t encourage our clients to get more estate planning work done than they really need. To help you get started in knowing what you may need in your own personal estate planning, below are the ten commandments of Pocatello estate planning that you should consider.

1. Have a Complete Estate Plan

The number one, absolutely most important thing that you should consider is getting a complete Pocatello estate plan done for yourself. A basic complete estate plan includes a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, and a living will. These basic documents do two specific things for you. First, they provide protection for yourself while you are alive. Second, they allow you to leave specific instructions about who you want your money, property, and assets to be distributed to after you die.

Sometimes people are concerned about how much it will cost to get their estate planning done. The prices vary depending on what you want to do, but I almost always tell my clients that it’s better for them to spend a little bit of money up front to help them prevent problems that could cost a lot more money to solve later.

2. Do Not Do Your Estate Planning Yourself

The next commandant is that you should not do your estate planning yourself. There are many services online and there are software programs that individuals can use in an attempt to create their own personal estate plan. Many of my clients do this. Later, they will bring these documents into me to review to make sure that they are in fact accurate and that they will work. After going through these documents with my clients we often find that the documents are not even be valid.

More importantly, most of my clients don’t understand all the choices and options they have available to them and how each of the estate planning documents can be used to reach their specific goals and to protect them while they are alive as well as help their family after they have passed away. It is for these reasons we recommend that rather than doing your estate planning yourself, you always seek help from a qualified, Pocatello estate planning attorney.

3. Keep Your Estate Planning Documents Updated

After going to the work of getting your estate planning done, the next commandant is that you need to keep your estate plan updated. It really doesn’t do you much good to go to the effort to get your estate planning done if your circumstances change and your estate planning documents are out of date. The reason for this is that our lives are constantly changing. In our own families there are people being born, people who are dying, people who are being married, or getting a divorced, and often people move away as well. Each of these things is a major change in a person’s life. Anytime an individual goes through a major change in their life, it is important for them to read through their estate planning documents and make sure that they still accomplish what they want. If they don’t, it is usually really easy to see that a change needs to be made.

Even when you don’t go through a major life change, we recommend that you review your estate planning documents about every five years. The main reason for this is again to make sure that your estate planning documents accomplish what you really want them to accomplish. As an example, it is not uncommon for clients to bring in the estate planning documents of a loved one who has passed away. When we review these documents we often find that they are 10 to 20 years old with no changes having been made during all that time. This can sometimes lead to problems because of changes in the family dynamics Including who the family members are. For this reason, review your estate planning documents regularly and keep them updated.

4. Plan to Protect and Provide for Your Children

In addition to protecting yourself while you are alive, one of the major functions of estate planning is to make sure that you are providing for and have a plan to protect your children after you are gone. This is especially important if you have children who are young, or who have special needs.

In your estate planning documents you have the ability of naming Guardians for your minor age children. You also have the opportunity to create a testamentary trust that can be used to provide financially for your children for many years in the event you pass away. Additionally, if you have a child with special needs in your family, I trust can be used to protect and provide for that child during their entire lifetime.

By meeting with and working with a qualified estate planning attorney, these needs will be discovered, and a plan can be created that will meet these needs. More importantly, you will be able to understand the choices you have available to you in providing for and protecting your children. This allows you to make the meaningful choices that every parent should take care of.

5. Deal With Your Real Property the Right Way

An additional benefit of getting your estate planning done is that you will have the ability to deal correctly with your real property as part of your estate plan. Many well-meaning parents put their children’s names on deeds to homes, or other real property. In most circumstances this is a poor estate-planning action to take, because of the problems that it can create later. As an example, if your child’s name is on the deed to your home and your child has an aggressive creditor, your child’s creditor can take the property away to satisfy any debts or obligations that are owed by your child to them.

The very best way to deal with real estate is to include it as part of your basic estate plan. Through a written last will and testament, you have the ability to specifically name who you want all your property to go to, including real estate. By doing this, your children’s creditors cannot take the property away from you while you are alive and especially when you may still need to live on that property. Additionally, if you can see that your child does have problems with creditors, you can place the property into a trust to keep it safe from creditors and still allow it to be used for the benefit of your child.

6. Handle Your Bank Accounts Correctly

Bank accounts should be handled in the same way that real estate is handled. In other words, you should not put your children’s names as co-owners or joint owners on a bank account. Rather, as a part of your basic estate planning, you will receive a durable power of attorney which will allow you to name your children as your agent to help you in the event you need help later in your life. By doing it this way, again, your child’s creditors cannot take the money in your bank account, and your child will still be able to assist you with your banking and finances.

7. Choose Your Appointments Wisely

The next commandant has to do with choosing the appointment you make in your estate planning wisely. You have the opportunity to name individuals to serve as your personal representative. A personal representative is the person who carries out the instructions you leave in your last will and testament. You may also name Guardians for your children if they are minors. Additionally, you may also name trustees who will handle trust property either for you while you are alive or for your children after you pass away.

The people that you choose should be capable of taking care of these responsibilities. They should also be trustworthy. For these reasons, we suggest that you take a little time to consider who you should name in your estate planning documents to fill these appointments.

8. Keep Your Insurance and Retirement Account Beneficiaries Updated

As obvious as this one seems to be, we are constantly amazed at the need to remind our clients to get this done. It really doesn’t do any good for you to have insurance and retirement accounts if you don’t keep the beneficiaries you list current. The beneficiaries you list are the individuals who will receive the money from these accounts after you die. As a result, we recommend that you review and consider updating the beneficiaries you list on these accounts every 5 years, the same as you do to keep your own estate planning updated.

9. Keep your Estate Planning and Other Important Documents Organized

Keeping your estate planning and other important documents organized also seems to be fairly obvious. If you go to the trouble to have your estate planning done in the first place, it’s important that your family can locate it and use it when they need it. For this reason, we recommend that you keep your estate planning documents in a binder, or in a filing cabinet or some other place that is organized. We also recommend that you either tell your family where the documents are located, or you leave written instructions in some easy to find place for them so they can locate your estate planning documents. In this way, they will be available if and when they are needed.

10. Think About Long Term Care Expenses

The last thing to consider is the need you may have for long-term care. As a society, we are living longer now than ever before. As a result, more and more adults need long-term assistance care at the latter end of their lives. If your family has a history of this kind of situation, or if you are concerned about the costs associated with long-term care, you should consider looking into long-term care insurance. For many people this makes sense given their circumstances and their estate. This is also something you can discuss with your qualified estate planning attorney.

Enlist a Pocatello Estate Planning and Probate Attorney to Help You

Our experienced Estate Planning team of attorneys can help you and your family with your Pocatello 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 Pocatello Estate Planning and Probate problems.

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