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A Guide to Wills, Trusts & Probate Attorneys

At Charles Bean & Associates, We Can Help.

Planning for what happens to your estate when you no longer have the capacity to manage it can be stressful. However, it is the only way to make sure your assets continue working for people you love and trust once you are gone.

No matter how well your family members manage their estate, it will likely need to go through probate when they pass away. Both estate planning and probate can be complicated and time-consuming processes. To ensure the desired outcome, you may need to hire a qualified attorney.

A Guide to Wills, Trusts & Probate Attorneys | Charles Bean Law
 

What Type of Attorney Helps with Wills, Trusts, and Probate?

 

Wills, trust, and probate are related to preparing a person's assets to be appropriately distributed after their death. You need attorneys to help handle the estate at different stages of planning and administration.

Wills and Trust

For writing and finalizing your will or setting up a trust in Idaho, you need an estate attorney. Besides helping you work out all details related to estate planning, an estate lawyer can also:

  • Help avoid probate — in Idaho, it is sometimes possible to avoid probate and save your loved ones a substantial amount of time with careful estate planning.
  • Establish durable power of attorney — if you become incapacitated for any reason, someone with a power of attorney has the legal authority to act on your behalf. A medical power of attorney allows the authorized person to make decisions about your medical care.
  • Establish financial power of attorney — this power of attorney allows the designated person to handle your finances. You can either give this power of attorney to a financial professional, who can act on your behalf or designate a trusted individual to handle matters if or when you are incapacitated. You may also take advantage of a financial power of attorney for one-time cases when it is not possible for you to be present.
  • Help avoid or reduce estate tax — while it is not always possible to avoid or minimize estate tax, an estate lawyer can help you adjust estate planning tactics with the goal of lowering estate taxes. Hence, your beneficiaries get the most from your assets.
  • Make addendums to the last will and testament — if you want to make changes to your will, creating a new one can revoke the old document. However, it is much easier to draft an addendum to the last will and testament (also called a codicil) in many cases. Codicils usually take substantially less time, and effort than preparing a new will does.

An estate attorney is well-versed in Idaho estate law. While it is possible to manage estate planning without legal assistance, it's easy to make various unfortunate mistakes. Each one of them can turn into a stressful estate distribution process for your loved ones.

Probate

While it is possible to avoid probate with various estate planning tactics, not all of them may be suitable for your family members. Depending on their estate planning strategy, you may need to go through probate after their passing.

A probate lawyer can assist with several tasks through the probate process, such as:

  • Determining the will's integrity
  • Identifying probate assets
  • Securing probate assets
  • Notifying heirs and creditors
  • Obtaining appraisals of the property
  • Ensuring timely document filing
  • Facilitating negotiations between beneficiaries and the personal representative
  • Closing the estate

A probate attorney can help with various aspects of probate, speeding up the process and helping you avoid unfortunate mistakes.

 

What Are the Differences Between Wills, Trusts, and Probate?

 

While the same estate attorneys can help with wills, trust, and probate, these three estate planning and handling elements are different at their core.

Wills

A will is a legal document that describes who gets which assets after a person passes away. It also includes the decedent's wishes regarding who will care for minor children after the person's death.

The primary purpose of a will is to avoid disputes over a person's estate after being gone. In Idaho, if a person dies without a will, the assets' distribution will be done through the court per intestate succession laws.

When a person does not leave a will, the court appoints someone (usually a surviving spouse or adult child) to become the executor (or personal representative). This representative protects the estate until taxes and debts are paid and then transfers whatever is left to the beneficiaries.

While writing a will does nt necessarily help your loved ones avoid probate, it can dramatically reduce the process's duration and stress.

Will development involves the following steps:

  • Identifying which assets to include in your will
  • Identifying who inherits your estate
  • Being specific about who inherits which parts of your estate
  • Choosing beneficiaries
  • Choosing a will executor
  • Naming guardians for minor children
  • Signing your will in front of two witnesses

A will is a legal document that should cover as many decisions about your estate as possible. That is why before you write a will, it is imperative to think even the most minor details through. Otherwise, anything you leave out may need to be distributed by the court, thus complicating the probate process.

While you do not need an attorney to develop a will, hiring one can be highly beneficial for several reasons. An estate lawyer can:

  • Check that you cover all the aspects of your estate in the will.
  • Review the will to make sure it holds up in court.
  • Help navigate complex family relationships and create a will that is beneficial for all parties involved.
  • Advise on various strategies to reduce the tax burden on your beneficiaries.
  • Help create documents that accompany the will (e.g., medical power of attorney).
  • Create legally binding addendums for your will whenever necessary.

Writing a will can be a stressful process since it involves planning when a person is gone. It's easy to get emotional and make simple mistakes, which later turn into costly issues for your loved ones. An attorney ensures a proper structure and language of your will while helping you avoid mistakes.

To honor heroes in the Coeur d'Alene, Idaho community, Charles Bean & Associates established a "Wills for Heroes" program. We offer our expertise to write a will, draft a durable power of attorney, and create health directives free of charge for first responders (police, paramedics, nurses, physicians, and firefighters).

Templates or DIY online wills are easy to find online. While they may seem like an excellent way to create a will quickly while avoiding legal expenses, the outcome could be less than satisfactory.

Each estate planning situation is unique. It is nearly impossible to create a legally binding document simply by filling out a form. You could make various mistakes that turn your will into a useless document, thus forcing your loved ones to go through lengthy probate after your death.

It may be reasonable to use DIY will forms and templates to give you inspiration for the asset distribution plan. However, relying on online will apps to help you develop a will could lead to unfortunate consequences.

Your Essential Guide to Idaho Estate Attorneys Charles Bean Law

Trusts

Trusts are highly valuable estate planning tools. By putting your assets (cash, property, shares, land) in a trust, you allow designated people to handle them in line with the terms of the trust.

It's possible to arrange trusts in various ways to ensure proper asset management, handling, and distribution while minimizing estate taxes.

The primary purposes of trusts are:

  • Maintaining control of assets even if your family situation changes.
  • Protecting your assets for the beneficiary (in case of their divorce or from the beneficiaries who cannot do proper money management).
  • Protecting your assets from creditors.
  • Avoiding or reducing estate and inheritance taxes.
  • Avoiding probate delays.

A trust is a legal tool that allows holding and managing assets within a trust on behalf of beneficiaries. It maximizes your chances of protecting your estate from taxes and creditors and keeping it safe for your children (or other beneficiaries) while minimizing expenses and hassle after your death.

Setting up a trust involves the following steps:

  • Pinpoint your goals for setting up a trust.
  • Collect all documents that prove asset ownership.
  • Identify trustees and beneficiaries.
  • Create a trust agreement.
  • Transfer assets to the trust.

It takes from several days to a couple of weeks to set up a trust.

An estate attorney can review your trust to make sure it can achieve the goals you have in mind for it. A legal expert can also:

  • Make sure the trust is legal and valid.
  • Navigate a complicated estate (multiple children, minor children, debts, numerous marriages, etc.).
  • Ensure that your trust is executed according to your wishes.
  • Review the trust agreement.

An estate attorney sets up the trust on your behalf, helping navigate complex issues that often arise regardless of your estate's size. Besides setting up the trust, the estate lawyer guides you through maintaining and executing a trust while consulting you on other estate planning issues.

1. Revocable Living Trust

A revocable trust is a legal agreement created by an asset owner (grantor, settlor, trustor) to hold the grantor's assets and manage them by a designated person (trustee). In many cases, the grantor is also a trustee.

When the grantor dies, the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries mentioned in the trust agreement. Unlike the will, a trust does not have to clear the courts for the assets to be distributed.

The grantor can modify, amend, and terminate the terms of trust during their lifetime.

2. Irrevocable Living Trust

An irrevocable trust works similarly to a revocable trust. However, the grantor cannot change or revoke it without the permission of beneficiaries named in the trust agreement.

This type of trust is an excellent solution for people with a profession that puts them at risk for lawsuits (e.g., surgeons).

They can also be beneficial for owners of exceptionally large estates since the part of the estate in the trust doesn't contribute to the value of your estate for the purposes of taxation and such benefits like Medicare, Medicaid, and Supplement Security Income.

3. Testamentary Trust

A testamentary trust is part of the last will and testament. In the will, the grantor appoints a trustee to manage assets after their death.

Its purpose is to ensure a fair distribution of your assets and life insurance payouts. The trust goes into effect after the grantor's death. Once the will passes probate, the executor transfers the property into the testamentary trust.

The trustee manages the assets until the trust's expiration, which is usually tied to a particular event. (E.g., a child reaching childhood or graduating from college).

Since a living trust can distribute your assets, do you also need a will? To ensure a fair distribution, you need both because:

  • A living trust never includes all your assets.
  • A living trust does not designate guardians of minor children.
  • A living trust cannot cancel debts.

A living trust and a will are not interchangeable estate planning tools. To make sure your assets get adequately distributed after your death, consider opting for both.

Probate

A probate is a legal process of distributing the estate after the person's death. While it's possible to avoid probate with careful estate planning, the decedent's loved ones still have to arrange it in most cases.

The probate's primary purpose is to ensure that the deceased person's assets are administered according to the law, and all debts are paid. It could mean either validating the existing will or, in case there is no will, acting according to intestate succession laws.

What Happens During the Process of Probate?

The probate process involves the following steps:

  • Filing a petition to probate court to open probate.
  • Sending notices to involved parties and creditors.
  • Taking inventory of the assets.
  • Distributing assets according to the will or relevant laws.
  • Closing the estate.

In many cases, probate is a complicated and time-consuming process.

The probate duration depends on numerous factors, including the complexity of the estate, the size of the debt, the presence of a will, the location of beneficiaries, and much more. It can last anywhere from a few weeks to over a year.

What Are the Benefits of Hiring an Attorney for Probate?

A probate lawyer helps with timely, fair, and lawful estate distribution. While it's possible to go through probate without an attorney, the procedure may be too complicated to handle on your own.

A probate lawyer can help:

  • Locate and evaluate all deceased person's assets.
  • Prepare and file all the necessary documents.
  • Represent you in probate court.
  • Manage debt payments.
  • Manage estate taxes and inheritance taxes.
  • Manage asset distribution process.
  • And much more.

Without expert assistance, it's possible to delay probate (or even stop it entirely), making the process even more stressful for all parties involved.

With careful estate planning, it's possible to avoid probate. In Idaho, you can do it by:

  • Placing all your assets into a living trust.
  • Setting up joint ownership of your property with the "right of survivorship."
  • Adding a "Payable-on-death" designation to financial accounts.
  • Registering stocks and bonds in "transfer-on-death" forms.

You can't avoid probate by developing a will. However, doing so can minimize its cost and duration.

Trusts do not need to go through probate after the grantor's death. However, if you have assets outside the trust, probate is still necessary.

Some assets do not need to go through probate. They include:

  • Retirement accounts
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Co-owned savings bonds
  • Pension plan distributions
  • Wages or salary due to the decedent
  • Assets from the living trust
  • Property in joint ownership with the "right of survivorship"
  • Funds in "Payable-on-death" accounts
  • Stocks and bonds in "transfer-on-death" forms
  • "Joint tenancy" property

If you want to avoid probate, consider consulting a probate lawyer to ensure all assets are covered.

Your Essential Guide to Idaho Estate Attorneys Charles Bean Law
 

When Should You Consult an Attorney for the Trust, Will, or Probate?

 

While it's possible to set up a trust, develop a will, and go through probate without an attorney, one comes highly recommended in most cases.

You should consult an attorney if:

  • You do not have experience with wills, trust, or probate.
  • You have a complex estate.
  • You have minor children and/or a complicated family situation (e.g., divorces, children from previous marriages).
  • You need assistance collecting and filing legal documents.
  • You want to try and avoid probate.
  • You do not have a clear understanding of setting up a trust, writing a will or arranging probate.

Even if your will is straightforward and the probate does not look complicated, you may still want to get legal advice to gain peace of mind and avoid unfortunate mistakes.

Your Essential Guide to Idaho Estate Attorneys Charles Bean Law
 

How Much Does an Estate Attorney Cost?

 

The estate attorney's fee depends on various factors, including:

  • Types of services
  • Number of hours worked
  • The complexity of the service
  • Location
Your Essential Guide to Idaho Estate Attorneys Charles Bean Law

Estate attorneys can charge by the hour or set a flat fee for their services. In some states, probate lawyers have the right to collect a percentage of the estate as their fee. Idaho is not one of them.

It's imperative to understand the rate before hiring a lawyer. If there is a flat fee, take the time to learn which services are included in it. Attorneys may set a unique flat fee for each client.

 

By meeting with the attorney before hiring and asking direct questions, you can learn everything you need about the costs. Respectable estate lawyers are always straightforward about their fees.


What Should You Look for in a Will, Trust, or Probate Attorney?

 

Choosing the right estate attorney is the key to successful collaboration, effective estate planning, and peace of mind. Here are a few things to consider when looking for a will, trust, or probate lawyer:

  • Experience — the more experience an estate lawyer has with the service you need, the more likely you will achieve the desired outcome.
  • Good reviews — learning what previous or existing clients have to say about the attorney can help you decide.
  • Clear communication — when it comes to estate planning, misunderstandings can be costly. If you don't feel that the lawyer has established clear communication, consider choosing another candidate.
  • Trustworthiness — since you trust the estate lawyer to help you with critical tasks, the person must be trustworthy.
 

The right will, trust, or probate attorney can become an invaluable companion during your estate-planning journey. When choosing an expert, do not rush. The time you invest in searching for the right candidate today will pay off with ideal estate planning in the future.

Your Essential Guide to Idaho Estate Attorneys Charles Bean Law

Why Choose Estate Lawyer Brian J. Bean?

 

Brian J. Bean has over ten years of experience in all aspects of estate planning, from will development to probate procedures. He takes a personalized approach to each client to ensure the best possible outcome regardless of the case's complexity. 

If you are looking for an experienced estate attorney in the Coeur d'Alene area, contact Brian J Bean and set up a free consultation.

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