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Inheritance usually entails the passing of property from parents or grandparents to their children or grandchildren. But given the right circumstances, anyone can gain inheritance from any other individual at any time. It is very much the same anywhere else, including in the state of Idaho

In 2020, data collected by the Court Statistics Project showed that a significant portion of the probate cases filed in the United States were wills and estates. At year’s end, 4,247 more cases were pending than there were when the year started.

This article strives to provide comprehensive information on the most popular topics when it comes to inheritance laws in Idaho. These include dying without a will in Idaho, inheritance and related taxes, and processing wills in court. 

What Happens if Someone Dies With a Will in Idaho?

A last will and testament defines how a person’s assets will be divided after passing away. If deemed valid, inheritance laws in Idaho acknowledge the wishes of the decedent and preserve their rights through their wills. 

There are set requirements in Idaho for a will to be considered legally valid and enforceable.

Idaho’s Title 15 Uniform Probate Code contains extensive legal guidance on wills. It states that any individual in Idaho who is 18 years of age and considered mentally competent can draft their will.

Nuncupative or oral wills are not recognized in Idaho. Holographic or handwritten wills will only be valid if they are in the testator’s handwriting.

The will should be a written document and can be printed, handwritten, or typewritten. The individual creating the will, referred to as the testator for males and testatrix for females, needs to sign the document in person. The signing of the will should be witnessed by two more individuals, who must also witness each other sign it.

If they are unable to sign the document themselves, for any reason, the testator may choose to appoint another person who can do it. However, this individual cannot serve as a witness. As an additional requirement, witnesses should not be named beneficiaries in the will.

When it comes to deadlines in Idaho, the probate proceedings must be accomplished within three years of the decedent’s death, with or without the presence of a will. There is, of course, an exemption if the deceased is missing or is not officially declared dead. Below is the common flow of a probate process and its duration.

  • Probate preparation and filing for petition (one to four months)

The decedent’s death certificate and will are required to start the process. The beneficiaries must also give their consent through a Waiver of Process document, and the executor will send a probate notice to everyone involved, which may sometimes include a newspaper announcement.

  • Notice to Creditors (three to six months)

The executor is responsible for providing creditors with a notice about the details of the deceased’s wishes. The task of looking for creditors may include checking the decedent’s credit reports or financial documents for any unpaid debts. 

  • Repayment of fees and debts (six to 12 months)

In addition to sending out the Notice to Creditors, the executor is also tasked with compiling and paying all personal and professional debts, including any unpaid state and federal income taxes. Administrative fees related to the probate process will also be handled by the executor. 

  • Inventory of Assets (six to 12 months)

Creating a thorough list of all the estate assets takes a lot of time during the probate process. However, not all assets, such as life insurance policies and jointly owned properties like vehicles, real estate, and financial accounts, go through the probate process.

  • Asset Distribution (nine to 18 months)

To avoid disputes, asset allocation during probate often takes place after the hearing and is not associated with the inventory. The probate court requires that all debts be paid before assets are distributed.

  • Estate Closing (nine to 24 months)

The probate process is concluded once all debts have been paid, taxes are filed, and assets are divided or sold. After the executor has completed the process, the court will issue a final order to formally close the estate.

Contesting a Will

Any interested party, such as assigned beneficiaries or those qualified to inherit the decedent’s assets under the law, may challenge a will. Challenging a will requires legal and valid grounds, as personal dissatisfaction is not sufficient. Proving incompetence at the time of the will’s writing may be grounds for invalidation. Undue influence, revocation, improper execution, and fraud are also valid reasons to contest the legitimacy of a will. Children may also contest a will if they have been accidentally disinherited or were born after the will was created without being updated. 

An interested party has 12 months to three years to contest an informally probated will, per the Idaho State Legislature, Section 15-3-108. On the other hand, anyone, at any point in the process, has the right to contest a will. This is so as long as the interested party has the evidence to prove that the will was created due to one of the reasons mentioned above.

What Happens if Someone Dies Without a Will in Idaho?

If an Idaho resident dies without a will, they are said to die intestate. In this case, the state’s intestate laws under the Uniform Probate Code govern the distribution of the deceased’s assets. With Idaho being a community property state, assets will normally be passed on to the surviving spouse. The property of the deceased will be inherited by the spouse and their children. 

If there is no surviving spouse, the property will be distributed equally among the children, with consideration for the descendants of any deceased children. This may require the assets to be sold to achieve an equal distribution.

If the decedent has personal belongings with a value of more than $100,000 or real estate, the state requires probate procedures. On the other hand, it is not required when these factors are not met.

The nomination of an executor, administration of the deceased’s estate, handling of claims from creditors, and asset distribution are all significant steps in the Idaho probate process. Whether a will or state intestacy rules are followed, these procedures are essential to ensure that the decedent’s assets are distributed according to their wishes while following the law. 

Non-probate Assets

Probate does not apply to every asset, though. The following assets are directly transferred to beneficiaries:

  • Assets moved into a living trust;

  • Retirement accounts with beneficiaries;

  • Life insurance payouts to designated beneficiaries;

  • Real estate with deeds transferred after death;

  • Bank accounts payable upon death;

  • Jointly owned property.

Whether a will is present or not, these assets pass straight to the surviving co-owners or assigned beneficiaries. However, they may later be subject to intestate succession laws if the designated beneficiaries have passed away and there is no will.

Spousal Rights

Idaho’s laws regarding intestate succession affect a spouse’s inheritance rights based on whether their assets are considered communal or separate property. Marital assets are commonly called community property, while premarital assets are separate property. On the other hand, if one spouse receives gifts or inheritances, those assets are considered distinct or separate property, even if they were acquired during the marriage.

The spouse’s share of community property is theirs to inherit upon the death of their partner. If the decedent’s parents are still alive, these family members share the separate property with the surviving spouse in such cases. 

Additionally, the surviving spouse is no longer entitled to the decedent’s property when the status of their marriage is legally separated and not yet divorced. An experienced and knowledgeable lawyer can be consulted for guidance about these legal areas of concern.

Children’s Rights

The children of a deceased person in Idaho are entitled to an intestate portion of the estate. However, the decedent’s marital status and number of children influence how much of this share goes to them. Also, legal recognition of the deceased as the child’s parent is a requirement for inheritance eligibility under Idaho law.

The share of inheritance allotted to biological and legally adopted children is equal. But unofficially adopted stepchildren or foster children are not automatically heirs of the deceased parent.

If a child is adopted without special legal permission, they lose the right to inherit from their biological parents. The adoption cuts off their inheritance eligibility unless certain provisions are made. It does not, however, impact the right to inheritance of a biological child whom the spouse of the deceased adopts.

In the case of posthumous kids, they are eligible for inheritance if they were born within 10 months of the decedent’s passing, meaning they were conceived but not yet born before their death. 

Offspring born outside of matrimony may inherit something even if their parents had a null marriage ceremony, if paternity was established before death, or if solid and persuasive proof was established after death. When it comes to grandchildren, they can only inherit if their parent, a child of the deceased, has predeceased the decedent.

The Rights of Other Surviving Relatives

Idaho has several noteworthy intestacy laws. Survivorship time is one of the essential requirements. What this means is that to inherit, one must live at least 120 hours after the deceased. For example, if siblings both died in the same accident, a sibling who died before the decedent would not be eligible to inherit. 

When it comes to half-relatives, they are treated the same as full-blood relatives in matters of kinship. This means that a half-sister who only had one parent in common with the decedent is entitled to the same inheritance as a full sister.

If a posthumous relative is born within 10 months of a person’s death, meaning they were conceived before the decedent but born after, they are eligible to inherit something. A child who was born through artificial insemination is also subject to this law. 

Additionally, a person's immigration status shouldn't have an impact on their ability to receive inheritance. Idaho inheritance law states that beneficiaries will receive their share of the intestate regardless of their nationality or status as United States residents.

For advancements, the value of any property the deceased left to a relative while still alive is subtracted from that relative’s inheritance portion. As stated in the Idaho code, this reduction is only applicable if it is documented at the time of giving or if the relative acknowledges it in writing. 

Estates With No Heirs

When a person in Idaho dies without an heir and a will, the state “escheats” their estate. Escheatment happens when the local government takes possession of the deceased’s assets or unclaimed properties. Intestacy rules, however, are designed to pass property to any relative, even if they live far away. If a person has a surviving spouse, children, or extended family members, their estate is protected against this acquisition.

Unique Situations in Idaho Inheritance Law

Inheritance laws in Idaho also apply in unique situations.

In the state, common law marriage—which is frequently misinterpreted— is recognized. When a couple agrees to a marriage verbally or in writing, this is when a common law marriage happens. The couple should have also assumed all the responsibilities and obligations of a husband and wife, including living together and behaving as a married couple. This goes the same for same-sex couples.

Idaho courts consider evidence to uphold a common law marriage that a person has claimed. After being acknowledged, this union is equal to a ceremonial or lawful marriage in every way, including rights and obligations. This covers being qualified for intestate succession and having the rights to inheritance tax reimbursements from a deceased partner’s estate.

Another common topic when it comes to inheritance is the “Slayer Statute.” This statute bars heirs from inheriting something from the deceased if they are responsible for such a death. According to Idaho law, an heir who commits murder is unfit to inherit because they killed their victim. The “Slayer Statute” was created based on the idea that no one should profit monetarily from the willful taking of another person’s life.

Does Idaho Impose Inheritance and Estate Taxes?

According to the Idaho State Tax Commission, the state does not impose inheritance and estate taxes. However, inheritance tax may be applied to assets if the recipient accepts it from a decedent who lived in a state with such taxes.

Although inheritance tax and estate tax are related in the context of transferring wealth after death, they differ in application and purpose. Inheritance tax applies to the assets received by each individual beneficiary. It is assessed based on the value of distributions made to beneficiaries. On the other hand, the estate tax is levied on the entire estate while the executor controls it before any distributions occur. The estate tax liability is calculated based on the total value of all the decedent's assets combined prior to dissemination amongst heirs. Distinguishing between these two death taxes is important for accurate financial planning.

The federal estate tax has an exemption that allows individuals to pass on up to $12.06 million in assets tax-free in 2022. This threshold will increase to $12.92 million in 2023. Married couples can take advantage of a doubled exemption, allowing them to shield estates worth up to $25.84 million from federal estate taxes. This expanded exemption provides flexibility in estate planning for married couples. However, if the total value of an estate exceeds the applicable exemption amount, federal estate taxes will still apply.

Legal Resources Related to Inheritance Law in Idaho

The online resources listed below can help individuals who want to know more about inheritance laws in Idaho. However, they are still highly encouraged to consult a probate lawyer to get specific and accurate answers.  

Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc.

The Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. gives senior citizens legal assistance on living wills, powers of attorney, and other matters surrounding probate. It is a non-profit organization that operates across the state to provide low-income individuals with fair access to justice by employing effective instruction and advocacy.

Idaho State Bar

The Idaho State Bar has a lawyer referral service for the general public, including individuals needing estate planning assistance. It also provides an online guide for people who have questions about basic estate planning. It offers valuable legal resources, not just to lawyers but also to individuals seeking information on planning their estate.

American College of Trust and Estate Counsel

The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel is another non-profit organization of lawyers who assist individuals on how to properly and legally transfer their assets to their beneficiaries during their lifetime and after they pass away. Their focus is to assist people who are struggling or just need assistance with the probate process, trust and tax laws, and estate planning.

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