A person can name beneficiaries to inherit his estate by making a will. In Idaho, a will must meet the state’s requirements to be probated, or legally establishing the will's validity. If a person dies without a will, his property will be divided according to Idaho’s intestate laws. Additionally, other property passes based on ownership or marriage.
A decedent’s heirs are entitled to inherit her estate according to Idaho statute 15-2-101 when she dies without a will. Section 15-2-102 permits a surviving spouse to inherit the decedent’s entire estate if the decedent did not have children and her parents are deceased. The spouse’s share is one-half of the estate if there are children or parents. The children are the first to inherit after the spouse, but if there are no children, the parents inherit. The decedent’s siblings are the next to inherit if there is no spouse, children or parents. If there are no siblings, more distant heirs like cousins, nieces and nephews or aunts and uncles are entitled to inherit.
A person can make a will in Idaho if he is at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor, as required by Idaho statute 15-2-501. Additionally, the testator, the person making the will, must be mentally competent, fully aware of the property in his estate and voluntarily naming beneficiaries to receive that property. Section 15-2-502 requires that a will be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses, who will also sign the will. A testator is free to leave his property to anyone he wants.
A spouse is entitled to disinherit his spouse in Idaho, but his will must include specific language expressing the intentional disinheritance. However, if a spouse is left out of a testator’s will accidentally, she can seek some exempt property and an elective share of the estate. Under Section 15-2-402, a surviving spouse is entitled to a $50,000 homestead allowance. Additionally, she can seek exempt property, including furniture, personal property, appliances, electronics and motor vehicles, with a value of up to $10,000, as set forth under Section 15-2-403. Lastly, after the court deducts the $60,000 in exempt property and allowances, the surviving spouse has a right of election of up to one-half of the estate, as set forth in Section 15-2-206.
In Idaho, certain property cannot be passed by will or intestate succession. First, if the decedent had a life insurance policy, the proceeds payable on death will be distributed to the beneficiary named in the policy. That beneficiary cannot be altered by will. Additionally, joint property, anything the decedent owned with one or more other owners, passes automatically to the surviving owners through the right of survivorship.
Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.