Can I do my own probate? Are you an aging adult who loves DIY projects? Do you make Halloween costumes for your grandchildren, bake your own bread or create picture albums for family members? Do you take pride in still being active with your DIY projects? You should. However, are you contemplating a do-it-yourself estate plan? Do you believe it is just another project and feel you do not have time to meet with an attorney? Are you thinking that it is better to have a DIY estate plan than to not have an estate plan at all? If you do decide to write your own estate plan, without seeking counsel from a qualified Florida estate planning attorney, it could backfire on your intentions and on your beneficiaries.
For example, when creating a legal document it must be written clearly and according to the legal statutes of the state of Florida. However, upon your passing, if your DIY estate plan was unclear and against legal statutes, your beneficiaries may have to go to probate court. In probate court the judge will now make the decisions on what happens to your estate. In fact, your beneficiaries could be stuck with what you wrote even if the end result is unfair and not what you intended. Beneficiary designations can be particularly difficult for the DIY estate plan, however, a qualified and experienced Florida estate planning attorney can take care of all these issues.
There are three reasons why a DIY estate plan can backfire because of your beneficiary designations:
1. You Do Not Know the Rules About Beneficiary Designations.
In an estate the rules on beneficiary designations always govern what happens. Therefore, if you do not know the rules your DIY estate planning may backfire on your beneficiaries. For example, 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 and in fact, it does not matter if you write a different name or names in your DIY will or DIY estate plan. The name or names written on the beneficiary designation form for any account is what will happen. Meeting with a qualified Florida elder law attorney can help avoid these types of errors.
2. You Are Unaware of the Importance of Updating Beneficiary Designations.
Your do-it-yourself estate plan does reflect that you knew to match your estate plan beneficiaries to what you put on the forms for your accounts. However, are you making regular updates? Remember, every time you decide you want to change a beneficiary designation you have to do it both on your accounts and in your estate plan. This may be avoided if you discuss your estate planning beneficiary needs with a qualified estate planning attorney.
3. You Decide to Make Your Estate a Beneficiary.
You decide your DIY estate plan just needs to be simple, so you make your estate the beneficiary of all your accounts. However, if you do this you could run into unintended tax consequences. This would definitely be a reason to consult a Florida estate planning attorney.
We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. Our Stuart estate planning law firm takes a very different approach from what you might have come to expect. Our goal is to create lifelong relationships with each of our clients, to guide and manage your legacy for the rest of your life. Please contact our office to learn more.