I am an estate planning lawyer with the Boise law firm of Angstman Johnson.
When people think of estate planning, they automatically think of wealthy individuals. This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions out there. If you have a dollar in your pocket, a favorite piece of jewelry, a car, a house, a savings account, etc.- you have an “estate”.
If your “estate” exceeds a certain amount, and you don’t have an estate plan, Uncle Sam may very well be the beneficiary of most of your estate! Even if your assets don’t exceed the applicable exemption amount for estate taxes, if you don’t have a will- the laws of Idaho will dictate who inherits the assets of your estate. To protect against this, you should have a will. In later articles, I will discuss why you absolutely should not use any of the online do-it-yourself wills or write your own will…and it is not because I make more money! In fact, some of the most expensive estates I’ve worked on were for people with modest estates, but whose loved ones either drafted their own will or used a do-it-yourself form. But I will save that topic for another day! Suffice it to say, it is best if you are in Boise to contact an estate planning lawyer.
In addition to preparing for who inherits your assets after you are gone, another part of your estate plan is creating a plan in the event of your incapacity. What happens if you get into a car accident and are unable to make healthcare and financial decisions for yourself?
The simplest way to handle a situation where you are incapacitated for a period of time is to have a Durable General Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. In Boise, many people refer to the Health Care Power of Attorney as an Advanced Directive. In your Health Care Power of Attorney you will designate a Health Care Agent or “Attorney-in-Fact” to make medical decisions for you while you are incapacitated. In your Durable General Power of Attorney, you will designate an Agent or “Attorney-in-Fact” to handle your financial affairs (i.e, pay your bills, sign any contracts, etc.) while you are incapacitated.
For those living in Idaho without these Powers of Attorney, their loved ones may be forced to go to Court to establish a Conservatorship and have a Court appoint a Conservator, who will make health care and financial decisions for you while you an incapacitated. This process can be very costly. In my experience, it has always been far more than the cost of a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney.
The final piece of a simple estate plan is a Living Will. A Living Will is a document where you specify your intentions regarding the use of nutrition, hydration and medication if you are in a terminal condition. I ‘m sure you will recall the unfortunate case of Terri Schiavo, whose family battled for years over what her last wishes were if she had an irreversible terminal condition. Unfortunately, Terri did not have a Living Will, which would have spared her family years of pain and expense.
Together, a Will, Durable General Power of Attorney, Durable Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will are all part of our Estate Planning Package. Of course, we also utilize Living Trusts, Revocable Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Charitable Trusts along with the numerous other estate planning tools that are available depending on our clients particular needs.
If you’ve been putting off the task of getting together your Estate Plan, hopefully you now realize that waiting is not option. Get that peace of mind today by contacting an experienced estate planning lawyer. If you are in the Boise area, visit our website at www.angstman.com or call us at (208) 384-8588.