Frequently Asked Questions about Probate in Idaho

Select any of the terms or questions listed below for further information on a particular topic of interest.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please note that the content on this page is provided without any guarantees of accuracy and is intended to assist in your learning process. It can help you formulate targeted questions for discussion with your lawyer and/or Real Estate Professional, or assist a personal representative, executor, or executrix in fulfilling their demanding duties. By using this page, you acknowledge that the information is for educational purposes only, and you are advised to consult with a lawyer and/or a Real Estate Professional for any decisions related to probate matters.

Important Probate Terminology

Upon someone’s passing, if they have left a will, it is executed through a process known as probate. This process legally validates their last written instructions, distributing their assets (including real estate) and affirming the appointment of an individual or entity they chose to manage their estate. The term “probate” is often used to describe the entire procedure of administering an estate. This includes collecting all assets, settling debts, taxes, and administrative expenses, and then distributing the remaining assets to the designated beneficiaries in the will.

The person named as the personal representative (also known as the executor or executrix) in the will is legally responsible for this process. They must adhere to the probate laws and guidelines of their state to manage the estate systematically. The executor is answerable for their actions and decisions to the heirs and beneficiaries, and sometimes their work is overseen by a probate court. If there is no will or no personal representative is named, the court will appoint one, provided there is an estate to distribute.

This representative is typically entitled to a reasonable fee for their services. Probate law often allows for partial distributions of the estate during the administration process, and assets are frequently distributed “as is” instead of being sold. The personal representative is also responsible for handling death tax filings and other tax payments from the estate’s assets. Therefore, selecting an executor or personal representative is a crucial decision.

Even if the estate avoids probate, the basic tasks of administering and accounting for assets must still be performed. In the past, legal and other professionals have recommended probate avoidance strategies (like revocable trusts) in states where the probate process was slow and costly. However, many states have recently simplified their probate procedures, making these avoidance techniques less necessary.

A probate court, also known as a surrogate court in some regions, is a specific type of court dedicated to issues related to probate and the administration of estates of deceased individuals.

These courts are responsible for ensuring the correct management and allocation of a deceased person’s assets. They verify and validate wills, enforce the terms of valid wills through probate grants, prevent misconduct by executors and administrators of estates, and manage the fair distribution of assets for those who pass away without a valid will (intestate). In cases of intestacy, the court may appoint a personal representative to handle the estate’s affairs.

When disputes arise over an estate, the probate court resolves who will inherit the deceased’s property. In intestacy situations, it determines the heirs based on applicable laws and oversees the distribution of the deceased’s assets to the rightful beneficiaries. The probate court’s nomenclature varies by state or jurisdiction, sometimes being called orphans courts, superior courts, courts of ordinary, among other titles. Not every jurisdiction has a designated probate court; in some areas, these matters are dealt with by chancery courts or other courts of equity.

Parties with an interest in or claims against an estate, such as a beneficiary concerned about estate mismanagement or a creditor of the deceased, can appeal to the probate court. The court has the power to require executors, executrixes, or personal representatives to account for their actions in managing an estate.

The Personal Representative, also referred to as the Executor (for males) or Executrix (for females), is tasked with managing and distributing the assets of a deceased person’s estate according to the will’s directives. Unless there are valid objections or the designated individual declines the role, the probate judge typically appoints the person named in the will as the personal representative.

This individual is responsible for fulfilling the decedent’s wishes as outlined in the will. Responsibilities of the personal representative may include identifying and safeguarding the estate’s assets; locating and informing all beneficiaries named in the will and any other potential heirs; settling the estate’s debts; approving or disputing creditor claims; ensuring the calculation and payment of estate taxes, completing necessary paperwork, and possibly selecting the estate’s attorney if not already specified in the will.

Joint tenants (or tenancy) with the right of survivorship is a type of ownership of real property or financial assets in which all joint owners have equal portions of ownership that are immediately re-allocated to remaining owners if one or more owner dies.

This term describes an individual who has passed away and left behind a “Last Will and Testament” outlining their desired distribution of their estate’s assets posthumously. In such instances, the estate is allocated in accordance with the stipulations of the will.

This term applies to an individual who has passed away without leaving a “Last Will and Testament”. In this situation, the management of their estate is undertaken by the relevant court and governed by the laws of the state.

A codicil is an addition or amendment attached to an existing will, which alters, overrides, or supplements its current terms. Rather than completely rewriting the will, a codicil is used for changes such as altering a beneficiary, specifying the distribution of a particular property, or clarifying the entitlements of a particular beneficiary.

Key Terms to know in Probate

The probate process can vary by state and may be influenced by external factors, but the following is a simplified overview of the typical steps involved:

  1. An original, signed copy of the will is submitted to the local probate court or the respective court overseeing probates in the area.
  2. A notice for the Petition for Probate is published in a local newspaper, which is generally a prerequisite for formally appointing and/or certifying the personal representative (executor/executrix) named in the will, in cases where there is a will (termed “testate”), or appointing a court-designated administrator if there is no will (referred to as “intestate”).
  3. Once the personal representative is officially certified or appointed, they file a formal petition with the court to begin probating the estate.
  4. After the public announcement of the probate petition, creditors of the estate have a legally determined period (commonly four months) to submit their claims. This period covers unpaid debts, liens, judgments, medical and funeral expenses, outstanding taxes, and other liabilities.
  5. Concurrently, the personal representative is tasked with identifying, collecting, and securing the estate’s assets to eventually distribute them according to the will or court orders. This involves accessing bank and security accounts, settling any outstanding debts of the deceased, and securing titles to real property and other assets for eventual disposition.
  6. The personal representative is responsible for maintaining these assets in good condition, including collecting any income (like rent or interest) due to the estate, ensuring proper insurance coverage, and safeguarding the assets from theft or damage.
  7. The representative may also liquidate tangible assets, such as cars or real estate, to generate cash needed to pay creditors.
  8. After the claims period ends and all assets are gathered and any necessary sales are completed, assuming no issues like will contests or disputed claims against the estate arise, the personal representative typically files a final petition with the probate court for the full distribution of remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries. This petition includes a comprehensive account of all expenses, assets received and disbursed, asset management, and the planned distribution of assets.
  9. With court approval of this petition, the personal representative then allocates the assets as outlined in the will and specified in the approved petition, or according to legal or court directives in cases without a will.

The length of the probate process varies significantly based on numerous factors, but it generally spans around six months. However, it’s important to note that it often extends beyond this period. Factors contributing to delays in the probate process can include, but are not limited to:

  1. Difficulties in identifying heirs and beneficiaries.
  2. Challenges to the will’s validity by heirs or beneficiaries.
  3. Unresolved claims or liens against the estate.
  4. Inability to sell real estate or other assets.
  5. Failure to properly notify creditors during the claims period.
  6. Disagreements among heirs or beneficiaries about the personal representative’s actions.

Given these complexities and potential for delays, it’s crucial to appoint a well-organized and meticulous personal representative. Someone capable of effectively navigating these challenges can help minimize complications and expedite the probate process.

Probate serves several key purposes, including:

  1. Legally transferring the title and ownership of the deceased’s property and assets to their heirs and beneficiaries. If no property is involved, probate is typically not necessary.
  2. Gathering any taxes owed by the decedent or their estate at the time of death, or taxes due upon the transfer of property.
  3. Setting a legal deadline for creditors to make claims against the estate, protecting heirs and beneficiaries from future claims by old or unpaid creditors.
  4. Ensuring a proper transfer of real estate. Without probate, no one can legitimately claim ownership of real estate owned solely by the deceased, nor can a bank issue a mortgage to a new buyer without a “clear title” established through probate.
  5. Preventing transactions involving the deceased’s property until the will has been submitted for probate and an individual is legally appointed to represent the estate.
  6. Providing an official process for the physical distribution of the remaining estate property to the heirs and beneficiaries.

While probate isn’t always necessary, some legal process is required to transfer the title and ownership of the deceased’s property to the beneficiaries or heirs. Many states offer alternatives like simplified probate procedures for certain property types.

Property owned in “joint tenancy with rights of survivorship” typically transfers to the surviving co-owners without the need for probate.

Additionally, certain assets like life insurance policies or annuities with a designated beneficiary can be transferred without probate. Similarly, IRAs, Keoghs, and 401(k) accounts generally pass directly to the named heirs or beneficiaries without undergoing probate. Bank accounts set up as “payable-on-death” or “held in trust for” (also known as a “Totten Trust”) also transfer their contents directly to specified heirs or beneficiaries, bypassing probate.

Property held in a “living trust” is another example where assets pass to heirs or beneficiaries without probate. A living trust is a legal entity that continues even after the death of its creator, facilitating the transfer of its contained property.

Probate expenses can be determined by state legislation or by the customary practices in your area.

When considering all associated costs, which can encompass appraisals, executor’s fees, court expenses, “surety bond” insurance, as well as legal and accounting fees, the total cost of probate can range from 3% to 7% of the entire estate value, sometimes even more. The costs can significantly increase if there is a contest over the will.

It’s possible. Many states offer “simplified procedures” for estates valued below certain financial thresholds. These thresholds can vary widely, ranging from a few thousand to up to a hundred thousand dollars, depending on the jurisdiction. Consulting an attorney is advisable for clarity on this matter. However, if the estate involves real estate or has outstanding debts, regardless of its size, undergoing the full probate process may be necessary or recommended.

Usually, the individual appointed as the deceased’s Personal Representative (formally known as “Executor” or “Executrix”) consults a probate attorney. The attorney drafts a “Petition” for the court, which, along with the Will, is filed with the probate court.

The attorney representing the petitioner must notify all potential legal heirs (those who would inherit under state law if there was no Will) and all beneficiaries named in the Will. These individuals are given the opportunity to object to the Will being admitted for probate.

A probate hearing is typically set several weeks to months after filing. The necessity of additional steps, like bringing in witnesses who saw the deceased sign the Will, depends on various factors such as the state’s laws, the beneficiaries named, the timing of the Will’s signing relative to the deceased’s death, whether a lawyer prepared the Will, who oversaw its execution, and whether the Will was executed with certain affidavits.

If no objections arise and everything appears in order, the court approves the petition. The Personal Representative is then officially appointed. The court directs the payment of taxes and debts and requires the Personal Representative to submit reports to ensure that all the deceased’s property is accounted for and distributed according to the Will’s terms and conditions.

Typically, the probate process is conducted in the court located in the state and county where the deceased had their permanent residence at the time of death. The specific name of this court can vary.

Although hiring a probate lawyer isn’t legally mandatory, the probate process is quite formal and precise. Even a small oversight, like neglecting to send a copy of the petition to a distant relative, or missing a deadline, can lead to significant delays or legal liabilities.

The passing of a loved one can sometimes heighten tensions and bring out unexpected responses in people. Experience suggests that even in harmonious families, emotions can run high over seemingly small issues, like the distribution of personal items such as kitchenware. These minor disputes, delays, or perceived injustices can lead to frustration, perceived unfairness, and unwarranted suspicions among family members. Therefore, it’s often wise and more efficient to entrust the process to a lawyer.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Personal Representative / Executor / Executrix

Typically, the probate process is governed by the laws of the state where the deceased last resided permanently. These laws apply to all of the deceased’s personal property, regardless of its location, as well as their real property within that state. As a result, probate is usually filed in the state where the deceased most recently lived.

If the deceased owned real estate in another state, the laws of that state may influence or determine inheritance if there’s no will. If there is a will that has been filed for probate in the state where the deceased lived, it often needs to be submitted for ancillary probate in any other state where they owned real property. Some states may require a local resident or state resident to be appointed as a personal representative to manage in-state property.

In the absence of a Will, probate is typically necessary in each state where the deceased owned real property, in addition to their home state. Each state may have its own rules governing asset distribution. For instance, in one state, real estate might solely pass to the spouse, while in another, it could be divided equally between the spouse and children. In another state, half might go to the spouse and the rest split among the children. This variance underscores the importance of a will to clearly state the deceased’s wishes, helping to avoid family disputes and conflicts after their death.

When a will exists, the duty typically falls to the Personal Representative, often called the “executor” or “executrix”. In the absence of a will, the court appoints an “administrator” during the probate proceedings to oversee the estate’s management, adhering to specific probate rules and procedures.

In numerous states, the probate court exercises significant oversight over the actions of the Personal Representative. This oversight often includes requiring the Representative to seek the court’s prior approval for certain actions, like selling real estate or business interests belonging to the estate.

The primary responsibilities of a Personal Representative include:

  1. Assessing if there are assets that require probate.
  2. Locating, collecting, and cataloging the deceased’s assets.
  3. Receiving any income owed to the estate, such as interest, dividends, and other earnings (for example, unpaid salary, vacation pay, and company benefits).
  4. Opening a checking account for the estate’s financial transactions.
  5. Determining the beneficiaries and their respective shares under the Will, or according to the state’s laws of intestate succession if there is no Will.
  6. Assessing the value or appraising the estate’s assets.
  7. Issuing legal notifications to potential creditors (the process and deadlines for creditor claims vary by state).
  8. Evaluating the legitimacy of all claims against the estate.
  9. Settling funeral expenses, outstanding debts, and validated claims.
  10. Covering the costs associated with the estate’s administration.
  11. Managing various administrative tasks, such as terminating utilities and credit cards, and informing relevant agencies like Social Security, Civil Service, and Veterans Administration about the death.
  12. Filing and paying any necessary income and estate taxes.
  13. Distributing the remaining assets as instructed in the deceased’s Will.
  14. Finalizing the probate process.

No, serving as a personal representative is optional, and you can choose to accept or decline the role. Even if you initially agree to serve, you have the right to resign later. However, if you resign before probate is complete, you might be required to produce an “accounting” for the time you served. If you decide not to serve or resign after accepting, the court typically appoints any alternate named in the will. In cases where no alternate is named, or if the alternate is deceased, unwilling, or unable to serve, or if there is no will, the probate court will appoint someone to act as the personal representative.

Serving as a personal representative doesn’t necessarily require compensation, but it’s common for them to be paid. They are certainly entitled to reimbursement for any personal expenses incurred while managing and settling the estate. The typical fee for a personal representative is around 2% of the estate’s total value, though this can vary by state and is subject to court or legal guidelines. This percentage often decreases as the estate’s value increases.

The probate court must approve all payments made to the personal representative. In situations of exceptional difficulty or extraordinary circumstances, the court may authorize additional fees. Conversely, if the personal representative fails to fulfill their duties effectively or promptly, the court might reduce or withhold their compensation, and they may be liable for any resulting damages.

In cases where an individual is both the sole beneficiary of the estate and the estate isn’t subject to Federal Estate Tax, it’s generally not advisable to accept any fees. This is because while fee income is taxable, the money received from the estate by a beneficiary is not subject to income tax.

If an executor or administrator fails to adequately perform their responsibilities, they can be held personally accountable for any harm that results during the estate’s administration.

Such liability can stem from a range of missteps, including mismanaging the estate’s assets, not collecting debts owed to the estate, paying too much to claimants, unauthorized or poorly judged asset sales, failing to file tax returns punctually, or distributing assets to incorrect beneficiaries.

Consequently, the Personal Representative could be responsible for covering any losses from their personal funds.

Initiating a challenge to the Will, or presenting an alternative Will, marks the start of a legal dispute known as a “Will contest”. Although such contests are not uncommon, they rarely result in a win for the challenger, yet they can cause significant financial burdens and considerable delays.

It’s also crucial to understand that to contest a Will, one must have legal “standing”. For instance, simply believing that your neighbor’s children were neglectful or unkind doesn’t grant you the right to challenge her Will. However, individuals with a direct interest, like a child omitted from a Will by a parent (whether due to animosity or a decision to favor a charity), do have the standing to initiate a Will contest. This also applies if a Will disproportionately divides an estate between siblings or if a more recent Will or the absence of a Will puts someone at a disadvantage compared to an earlier version.

Sometimes, a Will contest is pursued to change the appointed Personal Representative or trustee of trusts established by the Will. This could involve advocating for a different individual, bank, or trust company to manage the estate or the trusts.

Most efforts to invalidate Wills typically come from potential heirs or beneficiaries who received little or no inheritance. To challenge the validity of a Will, objections must be filed in probate court within a specified timeframe after the notification of death or the petition to admit the Will to probate is received.

Common grounds for challenging a Will, which do not include general dissatisfaction, are:

  1. Non-compliance with state laws in the Will’s drafting, signing, or witnessing.
  2. The deceased not having mental capacity at the time of making the Will.
  3. The presence of fraud, coercion, or undue influence.
  4. The Will being a forgery.

Should the Will be deemed invalid, the probate court may nullify the entire document or just the contested sections. If the entire Will is invalidated, the estate is usually distributed according to the intestacy laws of the state handling the probate.

In cases where a will contest is a possibility, securing an experienced probate attorney is essential.

Contesting a will typically involves submitting the necessary paperwork to the probate court by an heir, potential heir, or another beneficiary. Each state sets its own deadlines for when these challenges can be filed. For a will contest to be successful, there needs to be substantial proof that the will was not properly executed. Merely being dissatisfied or feeling shortchanged is not a valid reason to contest a will. Generally, the law only allows challenges based on specific grounds. These can include the mental incapacity or incompetence of the decedent at the time the will was made, fraudulent actions related to the will’s creation, or undue influence or coercion exerted on the decedent.

When someone passes away without a Will, a situation termed “intestate,” the probate court assigns a Personal Representative, often referred to as an “Administrator.” This person is responsible for accepting all claims against the estate, settling debts with creditors, and then allocating the remaining property as per the state’s laws.

The key distinction between dying with a Will (testate) and without one (intestate) lies in the distribution of the estate. In intestate cases, the estate is divided among beneficiaries according to the state’s predetermined legal framework. In contrast, a testate estate is distributed based on the directives specified by the deceased in their Will.

When a Will goes missing, it often leads to a variety of complex legal issues that hinge on the specific details of the case and the laws of the state where the deceased lived.

If the Will is absent because the deceased deliberately revoked it, the distribution of the estate would then be determined either by an earlier Will or by the state’s intestate succession laws, depending on the state’s specific regulations.

On the other hand, if the Will is missing due to circumstances beyond control, such as being lost in a bank vault explosion and fire, the probate court might accept alternative forms of the Will. This could include a photocopy, the attorney’s draft, or a computer file version, especially if there is evidence to confirm that the original was properly signed by the deceased.

The best initial step is to inquire with the probate court in the county where the deceased resided. If a Will has been filed, it’s typically accessible to the public.

Anyone can view and, for a small fee, obtain a copy of the Will. If you’re not nearby, a local attorney or legal services office can usually conduct a search and secure a copy for you at a reasonable cost.

However, the mere fact that someone passed away, even if they possessed significant assets, doesn’t guarantee that they had a Will, or that such a Will was officially filed with the Court. In instances where the deceased managed their property solely via a Living Trust or joint ownership, filing a Will might not have been necessary. This is because the Trust continues beyond the individual’s death. Similarly, in certain joint ownership scenarios, property often automatically transfers to the surviving co-owners.

A strategy to minimize or avoid probate entirely involves creating a Living Trust that holds the legal title to part or all of your property upon your death. The Trust acts as a legal entity that continues to exist beyond your lifetime.

Creditors are informed of the deceased person’s passing as part of the probate procedure. The manner in which this notification is carried out can differ from one state to another, ranging from sending individual letters to creditors to publishing a general notice in the local newspaper. After this filing or notification has taken place, creditors are given a specific timeframe, as determined by the relevant court, to submit any claims against the estate. This can be done by either notifying the personal representative or, in some states, notifying the probate court. If the personal representative approves a claim, the debt is typically paid from the estate’s assets. However, if the personal representative rejects a claim, the creditor may need to take legal action against the estate to seek payment.

If the estate lacks adequate funds to cover the lawful debts owed to creditors, the process of determining who gets paid and in what order generally falls under legal guidelines. Additionally, the personal representative may be obligated to sell some or all of the deceased person’s assets to meet the creditors’ claims.

Typically, no. Just as the saying goes, “you can’t take it with you,” you also can’t make others accountable for your general debts, at least not without their agreement. (Otherwise, a person could accumulate significant debts, designate their worst enemy as the beneficiary, and burden that enemy with the debts upon their death.)

Unless the deceased person had recently given away their assets to someone before passing away or had conspired with that person to deceive their creditors, beneficiaries should not bear any responsibility for the deceased person’s debts simply because they are beneficiaries. Naturally, the Estate may not have any assets remaining to distribute to them, but the beneficiaries would not be in debt.

However, if the children or beneficiaries received any property or benefits from the deceased person or the estate, or if they assumed responsibility for caring for the deceased person or guaranteed payment, they could potentially be held accountable for some or all of the deceased person’s debts separately, not due to their familial relationship or beneficiary status.

For federal and state tax purposes, the event of a person’s passing gives rise to two significant consequences:

It marks the conclusion of the decedent’s final tax year for the purpose of filing an income tax return.

  1. It establishes a new, distinct entity for tax purposes, known as the “estate.”
  2. For federal tax obligations, it may become necessary to complete and submit one or more of the following forms, depending on factors like the decedent’s income, the estate’s size, and the income generated by the estate:
  • A final Form 1040 Federal Income Tax return.
  • Form 1041 Federal Fiduciary Income Tax returns for the estate.
  • Form 709 Federal Gift Tax return(s).
  • Form 706 Federal Estate Tax return.

Regarding state requirements, the executor must file the appropriate state income tax return (assuming the decedent had this obligation while alive) and any state income tax returns during the probate period. Additionally, there might be estate tax, inheritance tax, and gift tax returns to consider, although many states have eliminated these taxes for most small and medium-sized estates. The specific rules for filing and payment can vary widely from one state to another.

Various other taxes demand the personal representative’s attention during the probate process, including local real estate and personal property taxes, business taxes, and any specific state taxes.

Furthermore, the Personal Representative should remain vigilant about the possibility of issues arising from tax years that occurred before the decedent’s demise.

Certainly. The primary requirement is that the individual seeking to alter the will must possess the necessary competence to do so. In cinematic terms, you might have heard this referred to as “being of sound mind.” A will can undergo changes through an addendum, often referred to as a codicil, or it can be entirely replaced by a new will. Occasionally, the law itself can impact the provisions of a will. This is particularly common in situations involving divorce, which typically terminates the rights of an ex-spouse unless there is a specific provision that preserves those rights. However, it’s important to note that separation does not automatically terminate a spouse’s rights. This is just one example, but a probate attorney should always stay informed about the latest legal developments in your state.

Frequently, these provisions are included in wills; however, it’s important to note that a court is not obligated to strictly adhere to them. The court may override these provisions if there is a specific valid reason to do so or if a credible challenge to the guardianship is presented by another family member or an interested party. It is also conceivable that a different guardian could be appointed if the initially designated guardian is deemed unfit to fulfill the role adequately or is deemed an unsuitable choice for reasons related to character or morality.

In all such instances, the judge’s decision ultimately determines the final guardianship arrangement, but the preferences of the individual who created the will are always given primary consideration. Including this provision in a will is crucial because it may be the only means through which your wishes concerning these matters become known and considered.

Broadly speaking, yes, but there are exceptions. For instance, if you specify in your will that all your possessions should be interred in a large pit on your property, such a request might be considered unsuitable by the courts and rejected. A judge has the authority to invalidate some or all of a will’s provisions. It’s important to understand that you cannot alter legal obligations simply by expressing your desires in your will. For instance, you cannot use your will to suspend or annul any lawful rights or claims that a spouse, child, or business partner may legitimately have against an estate; these rights and claims will continue to hold legal validity.

You could achieve this by designating co-representatives or an alternate representative. Nevertheless, this approach might introduce complications, particularly if conflicts arise between the representatives during the probate process. Typically, a single representative suffices, and appointing multiple representatives should only be considered when there is a specific and justifiable reason to do so. For instance, it might be suitable if one individual is responsible solely for handling real estate matters in probate, while another is tasked with managing all other aspects. Appointing co-representatives primarily for the purpose of safeguarding someone’s “feelings” is usually an ill-advised decision and should be avoided. Often, open and honest discussions with the individuals involved can address any concerns and allow one person to assume the demanding role of representative without the added complexities of co-representation.

Generally, it is not an obligatory requirement; however, it often simplifies matters, particularly when dealing with substantial estates and real estate.

Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship is a commonly used legal arrangement for establishing property ownership when it is shared with another individual. However, it should not be considered a substitute for a will. Typically, this “survivor” is a spouse, but it can apply to other relationships as well. In the event that one of the property owners passes away, the surviving owner automatically becomes the sole proprietor of the property. This means that the real estate does not become a part of the deceased person’s estate and is therefore not subject to the probate process. Nevertheless, all parties involved should be mindful of potential tax implications related to such survivorship, if any exist.

While it’s conceivable that a state law might mandate this, it’s typically a scenario seen in movies and not a common practice in reality. In most cases, the personal representative of the estate is responsible for issuing probate notices to all concerned parties, and if anyone wishes to obtain a copy of the will, they can do so through the probate court. Often, the personal representative ensures that sufficient copies of the will are produced and distributed to the relevant parties.

If permitted by the applicable state laws, the advantage of this approach is that the list can be updated periodically instead of having to modify or append codicils to the will.

If you are contemplating the creation of a Last Will and Testament in Idaho, there are essential guidelines that you should be aware of and include in your written document. These key points are as follows:

1) Identification of Yourself and Your Family

The initial and paramount aspect to ensure when crafting your last will and testament is the accurate identification of yourself and your family members. While this may appear straightforward, mistakes often occur when individuals attempt to draft their own wills.

  • Use your full legal name for self-identification.
  • Specify your place of residence, including the city and county.
  • Include the full legal name of your spouse and indicate whether they are alive at the time of signing.
  • Clearly identify family members, particularly children, using their full legal names to prevent any confusion, especially if there are individuals sharing similar names with designations like junior, senior, or III.

2) Explicitly State Assets Allocated to Specific Individuals

Another crucial element in your last will and testament is a precise description of gifts designated for specific individuals. If, for instance, you intend to bequeath your car to a particular child, it is important to provide detailed information to avoid potential complications, especially when owning multiple assets of the same type.

  • Be specific about the asset, specifying make, model, and any unique identifiers.
  • Use full legal names to identify recipients clearly.

3) Disinheritance

In the event that you choose to disinherit someone, it is imperative to explicitly state this in your last will and testament. Simply omitting a person’s name from your will, especially if they are your child, may not suffice. Idaho law presumes that if a parent leaves a child’s name out of their will, it is an oversight, and the child is still entitled to a share of the estate. Therefore, if you intend to disinherit a person, include a sentence such as, “I hereby disinherit my son Charlie, who shall receive no portion of my estate.”

4) Ensuring Validity

It is crucial to understand that there are two valid types of wills in Idaho:

  • Formal Written Will: This type is typically obtained from an attorney and is typed, organized, and easy to comprehend. It requires witnessing by two individuals who are not necessarily related to the testator (the person writing the will) and valid notarization. Witnesses affirm that they observed the testator signing the will, that the testator is over 18 years of age, and that the testator had the capacity and understanding when signing the will.
  • Holographic Will: For this type of will to be valid, the primary sections of the will must be handwritten by the testator, who must then sign and date it. Unlike a formal written will, a holographic will does not require witnesses or notarization to be considered valid.

Most individuals attempting to create their own wills often fail to meet the specific requirements, leading to invalid wills. Moreover, many individuals lack the understanding of how to properly structure a will, which can result in confusing language that may lead to family disputes and legal battles to decipher the testator’s true intentions.

The positive aspect is that the property only reverts to the state of Idaho in the exceedingly improbable scenario where the individual has no living relatives. In the presence of any living relatives, even if they are distant relatives, the property will be distributed to them in some manner.

However, the downside is that if you pass away without a Will or a Family Trust, the state of Idaho effectively establishes a Will on your behalf. The Idaho Code dictates the recipients of your property.

If you are married and/or a parent, the state mandates that your assets be shared among your spouse and your children. In the absence of both a spouse and children, your property will be inherited by your parents if they are alive. If not, it will pass to your siblings, followed by your grandparents, and then to any surviving descendants such as children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren of your grandparents. Irrespective of your personal wishes or the state of your relationships with your relatives, the state of Idaho essentially prescribes which fortunate relatives will inherit your property.

One aspect that the law does not regulate is the appointment of a Guardian for your children. After your passing, any person can express their interest in being appointed as the Guardian, leaving the decision to the probate court to determine who is best suited for the role. Therefore, if you have specific individuals you want to serve in this capacity (or those you wish to exclude), it is crucial to establish a Will and/or a Trust meticulously prepared by a qualified attorney and duly signed, witnessed, and notarized.

If any of your desired heirs are not yet of an appropriate age or level of maturity to manage their inheritance responsibly, your attorney should establish a Trust. This Trust can effectively manage their inheritance until they reach a point where they can handle it judiciously. After all, few things can be as detrimental as inheriting assets before one is sufficiently mature to manage them wisely.

Lastly, if you do not have a Will, it is highly likely that your family will have to endure the delays, stress, legal expenses, and court costs associated with the probate process. Therefore, if you wish to spare your loved ones from these hardships, it is imperative to establish a Trust appropriately before your passing.

If you choose not to draft a will by yourself (which is completely permissible), only an attorney is legally authorized to create a will for you. It’s important to note that wills crafted personally often lack completeness, which can lead to some or all of the will being deemed invalid in accordance with state laws. Although there are various kits available from multiple sources for will creation, they frequently lack state-specific guidance. If your will does not conform to the legal requirements of your state, particularly in terms of the drafting process, it may be deemed invalid.

In the event of a person’s demise without a Will, a situation commonly referred to as dying “intestate,” the probate court designates a Personal Representative often referred to as an “Administrator.” This individual is responsible for receiving all claims against the estate, settling debts with creditors, and subsequently distributing all remaining assets following the state’s legal regulations.

The principal distinction between passing with a valid Will (referred to as dying “testate”) and passing without one (dying “intestate”) lies in how the estate’s assets are apportioned. In an intestate estate, the distribution of assets to beneficiaries adheres to the predetermined plan outlined by state law. Conversely, in a testate estate, asset distribution follows the specific directives provided by the deceased individual in their Will.

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