Estate planning consist primarily in putting into place those legal documents that each of us need to deal with what happens if we become incapacitated and what happens when we die. If you have estate planning documents in place and have any doubt about whether those documents are complete or up to date, the best thing you could do is bring them to an estate planning attorney to review and discuss with you. Some law firms, like mine, may do this for you without charge as a complimentary consultation. Getting an expert’s advice on the status of your documents is very valuable.

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For those who want to avoid the court-controlled process that takes place after a person’s death (known as “probate”) – using a Revocable Living Trust is typically the best way to do so. This document allows a married couple or a single individual to direct what shall happen to their assets and possessions. It will also indicate who will be in charge of carrying out those instructions, without the need for the involvement of a probate court judge. 

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People regularly move to Idaho from other states and bring with them wills, trusts, and power of attorney documents created in their prior state. Such people often ask me if their old estate planning documents are enforceable in Idaho. Generally, those documents are still valid in Idaho. However, there are some very important reasons to have estate planning documents from another state reviewed by an Idaho estate planning attorney. Let’s remind ourselves what each of these documents are and then consider some of the issues that create concern about out-of-state wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents.

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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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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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