Do you enjoy do-it-yourself projects, like hanging your own wallpaper, making your own bread or creating and sewing costumes for your children or grandchildren? Do you enjoy the challenge of a do-it-yourself project and the sense of accomplishment once it is completed. Are you now considering doing your own estate plan? Do you believe that it is probably better to DIY an estate plan than to not have an estate plan at all? Maybe, but maybe not. If you decide to write your own estate plan, without seeking counsel from a qualified estate planning attorney, your estate plan may face a number of problems in the future and at your passing.

One problem that may occur with your do-it-yourself will is that upon your passing it is found that what you wrote in your DIY estate plan was unclear or against legal statutes. Your heirs may now have to go to probate court. In the probate court, the judge will have to make decisions on what happens to your estate. In fact, your heirs could be stuck with what you wrote even if the end result is unfair and not what you intended.

One of the biggest problems with a DIY estate plan, you do not know that the rules on beneficiary designations always govern what happens to your estate. To explain, when you open a bank account, a brokerage account, or a retirement plan, you will be asked to designate one or more beneficiaries. Whoever you write down in that beneficiary box is the person (or persons) who will receive the remainder of the account when you pass away. It is vital to remember, it does not matter if you write a different name or names in your will or estate plan. Whatever is written on the beneficiary designation form for any account is what will happen. Unfortunately, if your estate plan did not reflect this legal rule properly, whatever you intended my not happen. By taking time to meet with a qualified Wisconsin estate planning attorney, now, this problem can be avoided in the future.

You know that you should update your car’s license plate, your pet’s tags and your home address if you move. Did you know that the same holds true for your DIY estate plan? You must keep all beneficiary designations up to date. Be mindful that every single time you decide you want to change a beneficiary designation you have to do it both on your accounts and in your estate plan. If you discuss your estate planning needs with a qualified estate planning attorney, he can assist you in avoiding this problem.

You are a DIY person because you like to keep things simple and not involve a lot of people in your decisions and projects. So to keep things simple, you decide to make your estate the beneficiary of all accounts. However, if you do this in your DIY estate plan, you could run into unintended tax consequences. We highly recommend you consult a qualified Wisconsin estate planning attorney for more information.

We know this article may raise more questions that it answers. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum today.