Protecting Your Legacy

One of the common misconceptions about estate planning is that it’s only for “wealthy” people.  Nothing could be further from the truth!

If you have property (jewelry, a house,  a car, a TV, tools, etc.) you have an estate. 

I’ve found in my years of practice that the thing that causes the most drama after a loved-one passes away is not who gets Grandma’s IRA….it’s who gets the gravy dish, the rocking chair, the photo albums, the china.

The little stuff matters A LOT!

I’ve seen families torn apart over holiday ornaments and childhood dolls.  Don’t let this happen to you!  Don’t let your memory be tarnished but such petty things.

Parents always think that their kids will just “get along” and divide things fairly.  Sadly, that’s oftentimes not the case.  

Grief does crazy things to people, and I’ve heard more stories from my clients about how they felt they never really knew their siblings until their parent passed away.    

Other problems arise where you may think that someone knows that they are supposed to get a certain piece of jewelry. But that may not be the case…

Planning in advance will ensure that your final wishes are kept. 

Nothing makes me, as a probate attorney, happier than to assist in probating / adminstering an estate where a client’s wishes were explicit.  I’ve witnessed the effect that this has on the grieving family members…it’s one less thing that they have to worry about. 

The administration is swift, and they can spend time focusing on the lifetime of good memories that their loved one left behind.  

Contact an estate planning attorney today to get a plan in place to preserve your legacy.

Happy Planning!

Plan for Your Incapacity Before It’s Too Late

With the population aging, and Alzheimer’s and dementia occurring more and more frequently, it is crucial that you put a plan in place in the event that you become incapacitated.  Once you are unable to make financial and health care decisions for yourself, your family has two options:

1.  Conservatorship/ Guardianship

A Conservatorship is a method in which a competent suitable person is appointed by a Court to manage the financial and affairs of an incapacitated party. A Guardianship is a method in which a competent suitable person is appointed by a Court to make the necessary “care” decisions for an incapacitated party. A spouse, adult child or sibling can be appointed conservator/guardian.

The court will make the appointment of the conservator/guardian and oversees the administration of the conservatorship “estate” (i.e, the incapacitated party’s assets).

2.  Durable Powers of Attorney

A competent adult typically may execute a Durable General Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (also known as an Advanced Directive) in order to avoid the necessity of a Conservatorship/Guardianship.

The Durable General Power of Attorney is used to appoint an individual (also known as an Attorney-in-Fact) to manage your financial decisions in the event that you are incapacitated.  The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is used to appoint an individual to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated.

Because a Court is not involved, Durable Powers of Attorney are the most cost-effective way of planning for your incapacity.   If you are over 18 years of age and do not have Durable Powers of Attorney, you should consider talking with an estate planning attorney.  This can save your family a lot of time and expense at an already  difficult time.

To schedule an appointment with Natasha Hazlett at Angstman Johnson to discuss Powers of Attorney or any estate planning or probate matters, call (208) 384-8588.

Below is an article from the New York Times on the rise of Dementia in America.

May 4, 2010

More With Dementia Wander From Home


ASHBURN, Va. — For generations, the prototypical search-and-rescue case in America was Timmy in the well, with Lassie barking insistently to summon help. Lost children and adolescents — from the woods to the mall — generally outnumbered all others.

But last year for the first time, another type of search crossed into first place here in Virginia, marking a profound demographic shift that public safety officials say will increasingly define the future as the nation ages: wandering, confused dementia patients like Freda Machett.

Ms. Machett, 60, suffers from a form of dementia that attacks the brain like Alzheimer’s disease and imposes on many of its victims a restless urge to head out the door. Their journeys, shrouded in a fog of confusion and fragmented memory, are often dangerous and not infrequently fatal. About 6 in 10 dementia victims will wander at least once, health care statistics show, and the numbers are growing worldwide, fueled primarily by Alzheimer’s disease, which has no cure and affects about half of all people over 85.

“It started with five words — ‘I want to go home’ — even though this is her home,” said Ms. Machett’s husband, John, a retired engineer who now cares for his wife full time near Richmond. She has gone off dozens of times in the four years since receiving her diagnosis, three times requiring a police search. “It’s a cruel disease,” he said.

Rising numbers of searches are driving a need to retrain emergency workers, police officers and volunteers around the country who say they throw out just about every generally accepted idea when hunting for people who are, in many ways, lost from the inside out.

“You have to stop thinking logically, because the people you’re looking for are no longer capable of logic,” said Robert B. Schaefer, a retired F.B.I. agent who cared for his wife, Sarah, for 15 years at home through her journey into Alzheimer’s. He now leads two-day training sessions for the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.

Mr. Schaefer told his class of mostly police officers here in northern Virginia that unlike the ordinary lost child or hiker, a dementia wanderer will sometimes take evasive action to avoid detection, especially if the disease has made them paranoid about authority figures.

“We’ve found them in attics and false ceilings, in locked closets — you name it,” said Gene Saunders, a retired police officer from Chesapeake, who started a nonprofit company called Project Lifesaver 11 years ago to help find wanderers or people with other cognitive impairments. The group’s technology, fitting patients with wristbands that can be tracked by police officers with radio devices, is in use in 45 states, but its widest use is here in Virginia.

Wanderers often follow fence or power lines, and tend to be drawn toward water, Virginia state rescue officials said, bound on a mission that only they — and sometimes perhaps not even they — can imagine. (A search trick: try to figure what door they exited from, then concentrate first in that direction. But don’t bother calling out the person’s name, which he or she has often forgotten.)

Searching for them often also means learning a patient’s life story as well, including what sort of work they did, where they went to school and whether they fought in war. Because Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia, works backward, destroying the most recent memories first, wanderers are often traveling in time as well as space.

Some World War II veterans, for example, have gone huge distances believing they needed to report to base or the front lines. A man in Virginia was lost for days until searchers, in interviews with his family, learned he had long ago been a dairy farmer, rescue officials said. It turned out he had headed for a cow pasture not far from his home, believing it was time for the morning milking.

The all-too-human stories of exhausted family members caring for Alzheimer’s sufferers must be taken in account as well, searchers say. The son or daughter or spouse who nodded off or was briefly inattentive, allowing a loved one to slip out, might feel guilty, and so understate, sometimes by many hours, how long the person has been gone — a crucial variable because time on the run in turn hugely increases the potential size of the search area.

Meanwhile, cold cases are piling up.

In Arizona, James Langston, the state’s search and rescue coordinator at the Division of Emergency Management, is haunted by the stories of people who simply stride out into the desert in high summer and vanish. A few years ago, a 20,000-square-mile area was searched after an Alzheimer’s patient’s car was found on a dirt road at the desert’s edge, he said. No trace of the person was ever found.

Advanced age, meanwhile, can compound health risks of exposure.

“We’ve had them die in as little as seven hours because they just keep going and don’t recognize they’re getting dehydrated,” Mr. Langston said.

Many states do not collect or fully categorize local data on search-and-rescue cases, so it is impossible to gauge the full impact of dementia wandering on law enforcement. But in Oregon, for example, the number of searches for lost male Alzheimer’s patients nearly doubled just last year, to 26 from 14 in 2008, and has more than tripled since 2006, according to emergency management officials.

For many people involved in those searches — or in training rescuers for the demographic tsunami to come — the turbulent emotions and grief that swirl around Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are simply part of the terrain. In the middle of his training courses, Mr. Schaefer sometimes pauses, choked up by memories of his wife, who received her Alzheimer’s diagnosis at age 50. She died 17 years later, having forgotten how to swallow, he said, and then finally, even how to breathe.

On a recent afternoon at the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy, Mr. Schaefer told his class about the day he asked her if she knew who he was. He had taken steps by then to keep Ms. Schaefer from wandering away, disguising their home’s doors, for one thing, covering them with posters that looked like bookshelves.

But now he could see the panic and horror in her eyes, he said, that she could not find the right answer to his question. Could she recognize her own husband?

“No,” she answered. “But you take very good care of me.”

For John McClelland, 57, a retired volunteer fire and rescue officer who now leads training courses in Colorado, the story is even more personal: He has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s himself. The disease killed his grandfather and three other people on that side of the family. He said he has already lost the ability to remember the faces of new acquaintances, even a day after meeting them.

Knowing what is coming for him as the fatal disease takes its course has made his training work all the more important and urgent, he said.

“The mission I’m on is that I’m willing to talk about Alzheimer’s as long as I’m articulate,” he said. “The hell of the disease is that I know what’s coming.”

Happy Planning!

April 13th is National Be Kind to Lawyers Day!

From the April2010 edition of The Timesheet from The Billable Hour:

The NBKTL Story
Many inspiring, breakthrough ideas have exciting and illustrious beginnings. The apple falling on Newton’s head. Hewlett and Packard tinkering in the garage. Reese having his chocolate bar “mishap” with the peanut butter.

National Be Kind to Lawyers Day shares this great tradition. Steve Hughes, a mild-mannered non-lawyer from St. Louis had been working with attorneys for several years in the presentation skills arena. He liked his job and the clients who hired him.

However, whenever Steve mentioned to friends and neighbors that he worked with lawyers he was met with crinkled-up faces, snide remarks and sarcastic sighs. They would say things like, “Lawyers? I bet that’s a treat.” Or, “Lawyers? You poor thing.” (Can’t you just feel the animosity?) Suddenly he found himself playing defense counsel for an entire profession.

Then one day as Steve was putting away the decorations from National Bubble Wrap Day (late January) his thoughts drifted to National Ice Cream Day (late July) and then it struck him. Why not a special day for lawyers? Lawyers are just as good as bubble wrap and ice cream; in fact, they’re better. Thus, the idea for National Be Kind to Lawyers Day was hatched.

After extensive planning, detailed research and countless reviews by a team of legal experts, National Be Kind to Lawyers Day was established as an annual holiday celebrated on the second Tuesday in April. This date was chosen because it is strategically sandwiched between April Fool’s Day and Tax Day April 15th.

So now lawyers of every stripe can be honored and treated like regular people for at least one 24-hour period every April.

How to Participate
The best part of National Be Kind to Lawyers Day is that you’re the judge of exactly how much you participate. Here is a brief list of idea starters to get your legal kindness flowing.

  • Take your favorite lawyer out to breakfast or lunch (make sure it’s not billable!)
  • Send your lawyer a “just because” greeting card or a bouquet of flowers
  • Switch your ring tone to the “dah-dah” sound from NBC’s “Law & Order”
  • Abstain from telling lawyer jokes for 24 hours
  • If you can’t abstain, tell your funniest lawyer joke but switch out the lawyer with your profession (we bet it’s still funny)
  • If you accidentally say something wrong or inappropriate on this day, just follow it up with the words, “Strike that from the record.” Then continue talking as if nothing happened.
  • Salute the flag as you walk or drive by your local courthouse
  • Watch your favorite legal drama and pretend you’re the one delivering the powerful closing argument. Some suggested films: “The Verdict,” “To Kill A Mockingbird,” “A Few Good Men” and “And Justice For All”
  • Do some simple repairs around the house with a gavel instead of your trusty hammer.
  • Try to slip words like “I object!” or “You’re out of order!” into your everyday conversations
  • Try to write up your own Articles of Organization for an LLC or draft your own will. See, it’s harder than it looks.
  • Take notes at a meeting on a legal pad. Don’t you just feel smarter looking at the glorious yellow hue of that 8-1/2″ x 14″ pad?

Go ahead, be creative. What are some ways you can be kind to lawyers today? Be sure to let us know so that we can add your ideas to our list.

Will Leaves Home to Enemies

Canadian Lawyer, Charles Vance Miller, played the ultimate prank upon his death.

Miller’s will left his Jamaican vacation home jointly to three men who hated each other for a period of ten years.  After that, the home was passed onto the Canadian woman who had the most children during the ten years. 

The home passed jointly to four women, each of whom had nine children during the ten years.

Check out the whole story at TruTV, Weirdest Wills.

Welcome to the Boise Estate Planning Blog

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 or call us at (208) 384-8588.