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Should I “DIY” My Estate Plan?

With everyone spending significantly more time at home, many people have taken time to work on projects they had previously put off, learn new skills, and organize their living spaces. But, while cleaning your basement, learning how to give your dog a trim, or remodeling a room in your house are all beneficial, there are certain projects you should think twice before you try to “Do It Yourself.”

An estate plan you can try to create for yourself but it may result in higher estate taxes, probate, or worse, which are things we try to avoid in our practice.  It can also lead to fractured family relationships, wishes not being followed, and stress that could have been avoided.

Google tends to be a go to source for many when tackling a DIY project. And if you were to run a Google search on “last will for Michigan resident” your results could include what a last will is – a document that lays out who you would like to receive your belongings; the results may include articles on what you need to know before you make a will; but what will certainly come up are websites offering fill in the blank forms for you to create your own document. These documents tend to be the same generic forms for everyone who visits the site and pays for access to them, which means there is very little personalization in your plan. Also, few of the websites give you tailored instructions on how to properly fill out the forms and if there is a better way to try to accomplish what you want to achieve.

For instance, say someone wants to pass on their cabin up North to their children, free of probate, and searches for one of these basic last will forms. Once filled out they believe they are all set and move on without giving it much more thought. However, property that is given through last wills is still subject to probate, which is added expenses and possible stress for the family members that have to go through the process. Not to mention, the property may not be as protected as it could be if one of the children ever had a creditor problem down the road. So, it is more than likely there is a better solution for this hypothetical family than a generic last will they filled in themselves.

On the other hand, if the family had visited an experienced estate planning attorney, they would have received more guidance through the various tools and documents that would better suit their needs. An estate planning attorney can consider the financial situation, personal relationships, and goals of the family as well as any concerns they may have to draft a plan that actually works. The attorney can also raise points the family did not think to include. Points like:

  • Who will take care of your minor children should anything happen to you?
  • What does it mean to be disabled and who is going to step in and make sure your plan is being administered should disability occur?
  • Do you really need Powers of Attorney? And what should you look for in an agent?
  • What advanced directives include, and why it is helpful to include them in your plan?
  • How can you protect a spendthrift child from quickly using up the inheritance it took you years to build up? Or protect a beneficiary with special needs and make sure they are taken care of?
  • What tax planning strategies are available to you and best work in your situation?

Our office recognizes the importance of creating a comprehensive plan that is tailored to your specific situation. We strive to provide our clients the peace of mind that their estate plan will work how they intended, their goals will be met, and their loved ones will be protected. To discuss estate planning tools and how they can benefit you, please contact our office at (248) 409-0256. We offer a free initial consultation to learn more about our process.