In Idaho, when someone dies, the law requires that certain steps must be taken before others can take ownership of the decedent’s property. Although legalities are the last thing on the mind of family members who are reeling from the loss, understanding the general legal requirements is important to understanding first steps in the probate and administration process and to avoiding costly mistakes. During probate if the decedent had a will, it is validated, a personal representative is formally appointed, estate debts are paid, and assets are distributed according to the rules set out in the probate provisions of the Idaho Code. Idaho Code §§ 15-1-101 et seq.
To initiate the legal process, the will, if there is one, must be filed with the probate court. The death certificate and probate petition must be filed along with the will. If there is a will, it must be proved. In other words, the court must determine that the will is valid before it will approve it and admit it to probate. At that time the judge will also appoint the personal representative. The job of the personal representative is manage the decedent’s estate through the process.
Once the personal representative has been appointed and the will, if any, admitted, the personal representative must inventory the estate, pay estate debt and expenses, and distribute the assets. Asset distribution is based on the provisions in the decedent’s will. Once all steps are completed, the court will close the estate and discharge the personal representative.
In Idaho the probate process takes at least 6 months as the law requires an estate to remain open for at least 6 months. However, because each estate is different, the timeframe can very widely from estate to estate. Factors impacting the timeframe include the size of the estate, the number of beneficiaries and heirs, the complexity of the assets, and whether there is litigation during the process.
If your loved one was intestate either because they did not a leave a will or their will was invalidated during probate, Idaho law dictates who is eligible to be the personal representative and who is entitled to inherit the decedent’s property. The relevant law is called the Idaho intestate succession law. Idaho Code §§ 15-2-101 et seq.
Under the law, generally the decedent’s surviving spouse and children are first in line to inherit. However, who ends up inheriting depends on the degree of relatedness of the relatives who survive the decedent.
During the process of settling a decedent’s estate, disagreements can develop among the parties involved. Common reasons for disagreements that lead to litigation include objections to the will resulting in will contests, interpreting provisions of the will or trust, challenges to the actions of the personal representative or other fiduciary, or creditors challenging their claims being rejected.
Expedited Process for Small Estates
The administration process can be complicated. It can also be costly and time-consuming. Idaho does offer options that allow for a much quicker distribution of property in cases where the value of assets in the estate fall below a specific threshold and where there are no complications.
Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit
Under this option, those who can prove entitlement to assets in the estate can claim them by filing an affidavit. This method may be used if the decedent did not own real estate and had personal property with a net value of less than $100,000. The affidavit allows a successor of the decedent to collect any property, money or other items owed to the decedent by presenting the signed affidavit to the person or business holding the property. Idaho Code §§ 15-3-1201
This alternative is permitted only if the surviving spouse is the sole beneficiary. The surviving spouse would have to petition the court for summary administration and a hearing would be held. If the court approves the petition, it will issue an order that legally transfers the estate to the surviving spouse. Idaho Code §§ 15-3-1205.