The property a person leaves behind after death is referred to as their estate and the procedures through which that property gets redistributed to new owners is known as the probate process. Idaho's estate and probate statutes are found in Title 15 of the Idaho Code and are commonly referred to as the Idaho probate code or the uniform probate code.
One of the key issues covered by Idaho's probate code is the use of last wills and testaments. Through a will, people can determine for themselves how they wish their property to pass on after death. In Idaho, a will must be written down and signed by the testator, the person making the will. Idaho Statutes 15-2-502 requires the testator to sign or direct someone to sign on her behalf in the presence of two competent witnesses. However, a testator can also make a holographic will, one entirely written in the testator's own handwriting without the witness requirement.
If a person does not leave behind a will, they are said to have died intestate. In such situations, the estate gets distributed in accordance with Idaho's laws of intestate succession. These laws also apply to any testate estate (estate where the decedent left behind a will) where the will is silent or does not cover any portion of the estate.
For example, Idaho Statutes 15-2-102 states that the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate as long as there are no surviving children or parents of the decedent. If there are surviving children, the spouse gets half and the remainder is divided between the children. If there are no children but surviving parents of the decedent, the spouse gets half and the remaining parents get the other half.
Idaho estates can only be distributed once the legal probate requirements are satisfied. For example, if a person dies leaving behind a will, that will must be presented to the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. The probate court then decides if the will is valid. If it is valid, the court then names a personal representative, sometimes known as the executor, typically nominated in the will, to act as the estate representative and distribute the estate assets in accordance with the terms of the will. The personal representative has a legal duty to ensure the estate is properly distributed and is granted by the court authority to inventory assets, pay off debts with estate property and give property to beneficiaries and heirs.