A Last Will & Testament is the document most people think of when they think about estate planning documents. Often a Last Will & Testament is just called a “Will”. This is the document you would use to leave instructions regarding what should happen to your possessions and assets when you die (who gets what), as well as who it is that should carry out your wishes (who’s in charge). This document is not used at all until you are deceased.  

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A question I regularly hear regarding all types of estate planning documents is “how often should this be updated?” The answer depends, of course, on the individual circumstances. However, there are some general guidelines that can be helpful. Two questions to think about regarding updating your legal documents include – have there been any major life events since the documents were last updated, and have you looked through the documents in the past 2 years?

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If you are an adult in Idaho and become unable to make your own decisions in life due to injury, illness, or some other form of incapacity, there are two basic ways in which another person becomes the stand-in decision maker for you. The first way is through the use of a previously written and signed Power of Attorney Document in which you will have stated who it is that should make your decisions for you if you cannot do so. That stand-in decision maker is called your “Agent” or your “Attorney in Fact.” However, if you have not previously completed valid Power of Attorney documents, a judge will need to appoint someone to become your decision maker through a court process known as Guardianship and Conservatorship. If a judge has to appoint your stand-in decision maker, that person will be called your “guardian” and/or “conservator.” 

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From time to time in my practice as an estate planning attorney I come across a Last Will and Testament (a “will”) that is handwritten. If my client is the person who wrote the handwritten will, he or she is usually meeting with me due to a decision to formalize the estate plan. However, I am always asked in that scenario: “was my old handwritten will valid?” The answer, as it so often is with legal matters, is that it depends. 

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