Why should I use an estate planning attorney?

I hear this question all the time. The answer: If you don’t put an estate plan in place, you are leaving it to the government to decide your affairs. An estate plan is as important before death as it is after death. Preparing some sort of plan in writing to express your wishes during incapacity and your wishes after death is one of the most important decisions you will make that directly affects your family. After death, your trust and/or will controls who receives assets. Before death, if you can’t make medical decisions for yourself, a trust along with appropriate power of attorney documents will control your assets and assigns someone to make your medical decisions.

What are the goals of estate planning?

Protecting a spouse or minor children, protecting a spouse from future predators, protecting older children from bad choices, balancing beneficiaries in blended families, leaving a social legacy (foundation or charity), protecting one’s dignity in event of disability, saving taxes and more. The most common estate plan is unfortunately to do nothing, which means no estate plan. This leaves your estate (your assets) vulnerable to the federal government, State of Idaho, and creditors. This can also mean unintended heirs, or the opposite, unintended omitted family members.

What is a will?

Basically, a will is a set of instructions for the probate court, which is effective upon your death stating how to manage your property, how to pay your bills and how to distribute your property when you are gone. Probate is a legal proceeding wherein a judge enforces the will instructions to transfer property after death. It also provides a forum for a will contest (a challenge to a will) which can be time consuming and expensive.

What is a trust?

In addition to a will, a trust is another way to manage your property. A trust states your plans in case of disability. Trusts name a beneficiary to receive the property listed in the trust. It also names a trustee (can be the same as the beneficiary, or can be different). The trust basically contains instructions for your trustee on how to pay your bills and distribute your property. Your trustee has fiduciary responsibility and must follow trust provisions. The property is held for your beneficiary, which means it is distributed, invested or otherwise protected. The trust settlement is a private proceeding where the trustee enforces trust instructions. Trusts are the mechanism to manage or transfer property upon disability and after death. They are very difficult to contest and comparatively inexpensive, because much of the work is done up front, when decisions are easier.

Please contact the firm if you or a family member needs legal assistance with estate planning in Boise, asset protection, probate and estate administration, wills and trusts.