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What Can I Do to Protect My Inheritance?

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

The ideas for many of the articles I write about estate planning often come from actual experiences I’ve had with clients, their family members, or people who call me asking for advice. I never reveal any client information or anything that would be confidential but sometimes use the experiences I’ve had to talk generally about a specific estate planning topic.

It is not uncommon for me to receive phone calls from the child of a client wanting to know more about their parent’s estate plan. I’ve even had children tell me on the phone that they were concerned that their parent was planning to disinherit them, and they wanted to know what legal rights they had to protect their inheritance.

Several of these types of experiences have led me to write this article focusing on whether a child can do anything to protect an inheritance they believe they will or should receive from their parent(s).

Nothing is Yours Until You Receive It

The first thing that I tell these children is that there is no law in Idaho that creates a guaranteed right for a child to receive any inheritance from their parent. In other words, I tell these children that nothing is theirs until they actually receive it as a gift. I also often tell my clients, and their children, that if I had a crystal ball and could see into the future of each of my clients lives I could create a perfect estate plan for them where they would spend their last dime the day before they die.

In other words, I want both my clients and their children to know that estate planning is all about protecting the individual who creates the estate plan. The money and property that they’ve worked hard their whole lives to accumulate, should be used to help them. It’s only when they are fully taken care of for the remainder of their lives, that anything left over should be given to others when they die.

Estate planning provides a way for distribution to be made to others including children after the person passes away. I often remind my clients that they have no legal obligation to leave any inheritance to anyone, including their children. However, I also find that many parents do want to leave things to their children and other family members and loved ones when they pass away. I totally understand this and I’m always happy to help my clients accomplish exactly what they want.

Talk with Your Parent

I have also told many children that if they are concerned about whether they are going to receive an inheritance or not, they should talk directly to their parent. As an attorney, I have both an ethical and a legal obligation to keep my conversations and the work I do for a client confidential. In other words, I cannot talk to children about their parents’ estate planning unless I have permission from my clients to do so.

Most of the time parents will give me permission to do this. However, sometimes they do want to keep things confidential from their kids because their kids have caused problems for them their entire lives. Or, they may have provisions in their written plan that they believe will upset their children and they don’t want those provisions to be known until after they have died. Other times, there’s nothing that’s controversial in the written plan but the parents simply are private and want to keep things private until after they have passed away. Whatever the reason, as an attorney, I cannot divulge confidential information without permission from my client.

Have Your Parents Work With a Good Estate Planning Attorney

Many times, children call me because they are concerned about what will happen to their parents’ estate after they pass away because their parents have no written estate plan. In this instance, I provide these children with our free Estate Planning Questionnaire and encourage them to schedule the free 30-minute consultation with their parents so that I can talk with them about the estate planning options they can choose from.

I find that most people don’t get their estate planning done because they don’t know where to start. The free Questionnaire is the very best way to start because it provides an easy way to gather all of the information needed to talk about estate planning. It also provides details about many of the estate planning options that exist. If you or your parents need to get estate planning done, we encourage you to download this Questionnaire from our website and use it for yourself and your parents.

If you are concerned about whether you’re going to receive an inheritance, or if you were concerned about your parents not having an estate plan, we can help. We’ve assisted numerous clients through the decision-making process of creating their own customized estate plan, and we are confident that we can help you and your parents too!

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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