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Top Five Estate Planning to do

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an estate planning attorney, I’ve had over two decades of experience in helping clients complete their own personalized estate plans. In addition to this, I’ve been there to advise and help families through the problems that arise when a written estate plan was not created. I can tell you from my experience that having a completed and written estate plan makes the process of life and death much easier for yourself, your family, and loved ones.

I’ve actually found that the biggest problem in getting estate planning done is that most people believe that they’re not old enough to do it and they have time to do it later. However, if you have a spouse, if you have children, if you own property, or if you have a history of family health issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks, strokes, or anything else that is serious, then you should get your estate-planning done today!

I can tell you from experience that it is absolutely better to spend a little bit of money now to get a complete estate plan done that protects you and your family both while you are alive and after you pass away, than it is to leave your family members and loved ones in a mess that will cost much more money to fix later if you have serious health problems or pass away.

I’ve also found that most people don’t get their estate planning done because they simply don’t know where to start. We make that process simple. We provide an Estate Planning Questionnaire that you can download and begin filling out with your information to help you get this done. We find that most of our clients have no problem getting the Questionnaire completed. To move things forward, we offer a free 30-minute consultation to review the Questionnaire and to discuss with our clients the options they have available to them. Part of this consultation includes providing the flat fee prices for the options our clients choose so that before they have any obligation to us, they know exactly what it will take to get their estate planning done.

So, what are the top five estate planning to dos? They are actually really simple.

1. Power of Attorney for Property and Finances

The Durable Power of Attorney document covers all of your property and finances and is perhaps the most important document you need. If you ever were incapacitated, by something such as Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke, a heart attack, or something similar, this document allows you to name whomever you choose to help you take care of your property and finances the same way you do right now.

If you do not have the Durable Power of Attorney for your property and finances, then your family will be required to do a guardianship proceeding for you where a court will enter an order that appoints someone as your guardian and conservator. The problem with this process is that it is much more expensive than getting your estate-planning done, and you don’t get to choose who this person will be which often leads to family fights about who should be appointed as your guardian. If you have your Durable Power of Attorney done, the fight is over, and you have a plan in place to protect you if and/or when you need it.

2. Power of Attorney for Health Care

The second document is similar, this is the Power of Attorney for Health Care. This document is a little more limited because it only covers healthcare and medical decisions. For example, if you had Alzheimer’s, and you could not make decisions about the kinds of medicine you should take or the doctors you should see, the individual that you have named in your Power of Attorney for Health Care would help you make these decisions. Additionally, this person would likely be going to the doctor’s office with you. They would also likely be in the room with you while the doctor is looking you over and discussing the options with the doctor that you would normally be discussing.

Power of attorney documents are important because they could have an impact on you while you were alive for many years. For this reason, these documents are a must.

3. Living Will

The third to do that you should complete as part of your estate planning is your Living Will. This document empowers you with the ability of providing end-of-life instructions to your doctors and healthcare providers about what you do want them to do and more specifically about what you do NOT want them to do. If you lose the ability to communicate with your doctors, then your living will is the document they are required to follow. You get to leave your own specific instructions in this document that will guide and direct your healthcare providers at the end of your life.

4. Last Will and Testament

Some people are surprised to find that the written Last Will and Testament is the fourth to do on the list of things to get done. The reason for this is that your last will and testament is actually not valid until you die. Because the other documents are applicable and valid for you while you were alive, they get more importance in The To Do List than this one.

That is not to say that a last will and testament is not important. In fact, a last will and testament is very important. If you do not have a written last will and testament, then the statutes will define who can be your personal representative, and also who will receive your estate. However, when you have a written last will and testament, you are in complete control in deciding who you want to be your personal representative. More importantly, you are in control of distributing your money, property, and all the other assets in your estate, to the individuals that you choose.

5. Beneficiary Designations on Insurance and Retirement Accounts

The last thing to be concerned about on The To Do List is the Beneficiary Designations that are associated with your life insurance and retirement accounts. These designations control who will receive your life insurance proceeds, or the requirement account money that is left after you have passed away.

Some people believe that if they put these things in their written last will and testament that will control. The problem is, these items are all considered contracts. As a result, the contract is what controls. For this reason, we recommend that our clients often review and keep their beneficiary designations updated.

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 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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