Share

Madison Wisconsin's Estate Planning Blog

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

National Home Remodeling Month: Can I Remodel My Own Estate Planning Documents?

Do you know that, according to the National Association of Home Builders, May is National Home Remodeling Month? Many people associate spring with cleaning out the old, brushing off the dirt accumulated from the long winter, and starting projects around the house that have been neglected for far too long.

Perhaps, however, your home is fine as is and you need a remodeling project for something other than your home. Estate planning is one area that often goes unexamined and neglected. Is it time to remodel your estate plan? If so, is that something that you can (or should) do on your own?

Small Estate Planning Updates

Upon reviewing your estate planning documents, you may notice a number of seemingly small issues that need to be addressed, but you may wonder whether you need an attorney to assist you. You may want to make one or more of the following changes:

  • You want to change your name or the name of your spouse or a beneficiary
  • You want to appoint different decision makers (trustees, agents, executors, etc.) in your estate plan
  • You want to remove beneficiaries
  • You want to add new beneficiaries
  • You want to change how much each beneficiary will inherit under your estate plan

A quick examination of each of these changes, and the consequences of attempting to alter your documents accordingly, may help you determine whether you need the help of a professional.

You Have Changed Your Name

If you have changed your last name because of a marriage or simply because you prefer another name, and the content of your estate planning documents does not need to be changed (for example, your trusted decision makers and the distribution of your property to your loved ones remain the same), all that may be required is that you keep copies of any legal paperwork reflecting the name change together with your estate planning documents. The legal paperwork, such as a marriage certificate or an affidavit of name change, will allow your trusted decision makers to show a bank or title company that the maker of the estate planning documents and the person renamed by the marriage certificate or affidavit are the same individual.

That said, if your new name is a result of remarriage, both you and your new spouse may dislike seeing your old last name all over your estate planning documents. In that case, you should consider asking your attorney to either help you draft official amendments to your existing documents or execute entirely new documents. Also, if your name changed as a result of remarriage, you may need to replace the name of your former spouse with the name of your new spouse in your documents.

Note, however, that, if a trust you established for estate planning purposes has your old name in the trust title and you have transferred accounts and property to that trust, you should get help from an attorney to ensure that the trust name is properly amended along with the retitling of the accounts and property in the trust. Some individuals choose to leave their trust name the same to avoid having to retitle any accounts and property after changing their name. However, that can create confusion. That is why it is best to consult an attorney in this situation.

A Beneficiary’s Name Changes

What if a beneficiary’s name changes either because of marriage or preference? Should you update your estate planning documents?

As in the discussion above, it is not necessarily critical that you update your documents if your beneficiary can prove that the beneficiary is the same person who is named in your documents. A court order, a marriage certificate, or a birth certificate can establish the name change and should not create too much trouble for your beneficiary.

Avoid writing on your estate planning documents. Crossing out someone’s name and writing in the new name has resulted in confusion and even litigation when the intent of the edited document was unclear. Courts throughout the country have had to weigh in on these types of ad hoc edits to estate planning documents to determine who made the edits, what the intent was, and whether they are valid. Although it may seem harmless and straightforward at the time, unforeseen consequences can often arise when you attempt to edit such legal documents yourself.

Adding or Removing a Beneficiary

Perhaps a new child has been born to the family or a beneficiary has passed away. Do you need to address the event in your planning documents? It depends. Many estate planning documents are drafted to anticipate future additions to the family, such as children and grandchildren, as well as future beneficiary deaths.

 

The language of your estate planning documents may assume that you want all of your children to receive an equal share of your accounts and property and that your grandchildren should inherit their deceased parent’s share. However, not all estate planning documents are drafted that way. In fact, you may need to add or remove a beneficiary by name for your intent to be properly carried out. Never attempt to add or remove beneficiaries from your estate planning documents on your own. Serious legal consequences can result from making such changes without legal advice. In some cases, people to whom you intend to leave property could inadvertently be cut off from receiving an inheritance. And in other cases, your property could end up with those whom you never intended to benefit from your estate.

For example, suppose a couple decided to leave a small share of their estate to each of their children’s spouses and therefore added the spouses’ names to the list of children in their estate planning documents. Then suppose that a blood-related child died and the child’s spouse remarried. Upon the parents’ deaths, the former in-law becomes a beneficiary of the family trust and, under applicable state law, could have certain rights regarding the administration of the trust. The former in-law could have the right to demand a copy of the trust documents and any financial accountings and could even have the right to sue the trustees if the former in-law felt that they were not moving fast enough to distribute the individual’s share of the trust. And once that share was paid out, the former in-law might use it in a way that the parents never intended: to benefit a new spouse or a child from another marriage, creating seriously negative results from an innocent and well-meaning attempt to provide for an in-law.

Appointing New Trusted Decision Makers

At other times, you may review your documents and realize that you no longer want the person you originally named as trustee, executor, or agent to make important decisions about your property if you become incapacitated or die. Again, it may be tempting to simply draw a line through the names of the persons you want to remove and add the names of your new preferred decision makers. But first you should understand that certain legal documents may not be amended so easily. In fact, under certain circumstances, writing on a legal estate planning document can void the document altogether.

With such important changes, you should have the documents redrafted and executed with the same formalities that were used with your original documents, making sure to follow the applicable state law. For example, your state may require multiple unrelated witnesses to the signing of a new will, even if the new will contains only a one-sentence change. The same is true for a codicil, or amendment, to your will. Similar formalities, such as having your signature notarized, may also be required with other documents—for example, a power of attorney or a trust amendment or restatement.

Changing Distribution Shares

Sometimes, you may be tempted to change the distribution provisions of your will or trust by adjusting the percentage or fraction shares of your estate. You should never attempt to do this on your own. If you wish to adjust the distribution provisions of your will or trust, always consult your attorney. You should consider this type of amendment very carefully and execute it with strict formalities and documentation. This type of change to your estate planning documents is fraught with the risk that a beneficiary who will receive less under the amendment will challenge it and use any argument available to have the changes invalidated. An experienced estate planning attorney will know the necessary steps to take to ensure that your documents will be honored by your beneficiaries, and the courts, after you are gone.

As you can see, there are many potential pitfalls that you can stumble into if you attempt to remodel your estate plan without the help of a trained and experienced attorney. In many cases, these small changes don’t have to be expensive. Your attorney will be able to fix some of these small issues very quickly and inexpensively by drafting an amendment to your estate planning documents. Other changes may require more work because the issues are considerably more complex than you first realized. In either case, you can rest assured that, with a legal professional guiding you through the process, you will not be leaving your loved ones with a legal mess to sort out after you are gone.

If you are not sure whether you will need an attorney to help you remodel your estate plan, call us, a Madison Estate Planning Attorney. We are happy to consult with you and help you determine what changes, if any, you may need to make. Call us today.


Blog Categories

401(k)

AB Trust

ABLE Program

Abuse

Addiction

Adult Beneficiaries

Advancement of share

Agent

Aging

Alcohol abuse

Amendment of Trust

Annual exclusion

Annuity

Armed Service Personnel

Asset Protection

Attorney

Avoid Probate

Basis

Beneficiary

Beneficiary Designations

Birth

Business Succession

Buy-Sell Agreement

Capacity

Caregiver

Celebrity

Changes in life

Changes in tax law

Charitable Planning

Children

Cognitive Impairment

Community Property

Compensation

Conservatorship

Core Values

Corporate Trustee

Court

Creditor Protection

Creditors

Death

Debts

Decanting

Deed

Digital Estate Planning

Discretionary Trusts

Disinherit

Divorce

Divorce Protection

Documents

Driving

Drug abuse

Duress

Dynasty Trust

Dysfunctional Family

Education

Elder Law

Equal Division

Estate Planning

Executor

Fair Division

Family

Farming and Ranching

Fees

Fiduciary

Financial Power of Attorney

Flexibility

Fraud

Funding Your Trust

Funeral

Generational Planning

Gifting

Government Assistance

Grandchildren

GSST

Guardian

Guardianship

Health Care

Health Care Agent/Proxy

Health Savings Account

Heirlooms

Heirs

HIPAA

Holographic Will

House

Incapacity

Income Tax

Inheritance

Instruction

Insurance

Intent Letters

Internet

Inter-vivos Trusts

Intestacy

Inventory

IRA

Irrevocable Trusts

Joint Tenancy

Keepsakes

Kids

Law Firm

Lawsuits

Liability

Liability Insurance

Life Estate

Life Events

Life Insurance

Lifetime Planning

Lifetime QTIP

Lifetime QTIP Trust

Limited Liability Company

Living Probate

Living Trust

Living Will

LLC

Loans

Long-Term Care

Lottery Winnings

Marital Property

Marraige

Medicaid Planning

Meeting

Mental Illness

Minor Children

Money

Moving to/from a State

Myths

Newlyweds

NEWSLETTERS

Nursing Home

Oral Wills

Overseas Estate Planning

Parents

Partners

Payable on Death (POD)

Peace of Mind

Personal Property

Personal Representative

Pets

Physicians

Planning

Portibility

Power of Appointment

Power of Attorney

Predator Protection

Predators

Prenuptual Agreements

Privacy

Probate

Procrastination

Promises

Property

QTIP Trust

Remarraige

Rental Property

Restatement of Trust

Retirement Assets

Review

Revocable Trusts

Saving Money

Simultaneous Death

Special Needs Trusts

Spendthrift Tust

Spouse

Stand Alone Retirement Trust (SRT)

Storage of Documents

Storing Documents

Stress

Successor Trustee

Surgery

Tangible Personal Property Memorandum

Taxes

Testamentary Trusts

Theft

Timeshare

Title

Transfer of Assets

Transfer on Death (TOD)

Trust Administration

Trust Contest

Trust Funding

Trust Protector

Trustee

Trusts

Umbrella Insurance

Unborn Children

Unfinished Estate Plan

Update Planning

Vacation Poperty

Values

Will

Will Contests

Wishes

Year End Strategies

Young Families

Archived Posts

2021
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2020
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2019
December
November
October
September
August
July
Being Deployed? Here’s What You Need to Do
The Only Constant in Life is Change: When Circumstances Change, So Should Your Estate Plan
Beyond Wills and Trusts: 3 Documents Everyone Needs
Reconsider Outright Inheritances: How to Protect Your Heirs and Your Legacy from Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Expand Your Cast to Prevent Chaos
Planning for Blended Families: Second or Later Marriages and Divorce of Beneficiaries
The Flexible Protection of Trust-Based Planning
Why “I Love You” Wills Really Don’t Say “I Love You”
Estate Plans for College Students and Other Young Adults: Why It’s the Perfect Time to Set Your Kids Up for Success
Your Guide to Better Incapacity Protection in Your Estate Plan
Are You Familiar With Community Property Trusts?: Learn How These Special Trusts Can Help Reduce Income Taxes
Modernizing an Outdated Estate Plan: What to do with a Confusing, Old Trust
Have You Considered a Dynasty Trust for Your Family’s Estate? Why You Should Think Twice Before Ruling One Out
What if you don’t die?: Why Ignoring the Importance of Incapacity Planning Can Have Serious Consequences
Don’t Put Off Till Tomorrow What You Can Do Today: Why It’s Time to Talk with Your Family and Your Estate Planning Attorney
Who Will Inherit Your Financial Wisdom?: Passing on More Than Just Wealth
How Tax Reform Will Impact You and Your Estate Planning
Will My Debt Outlive Me?: Your Questions About Debt After Death Answered
Planning Your Summer Vacation?: 5 Things to Consider Now
Talk to Your Family over the Holidays about Your Estate Plan
12 Crucial Insights for Protecting Your Furry Family Members
Does Your Family Know About Your Estate Plan?: A Guide for How Much to Share and With Whom
Planning for the Financial Future of a Troubled Adult Child: Your 3-Step Guide to Creating an Informed Estate Plan
Keeping the Peace After You Are Gone: Planning With an Aim Towards Building Unity
Have You Taken Advantage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Planning Window?: Important Estate Planning Tips You Should Act on Now
Back-To-School Preparation: Not Just About the School Supplies- Use This Time to Revisit The Parts of Your Estate Plan That Impact Your Children Most
What Do the New 199A Regulations Mean for You?: New Choices and Opportunities for Tax Savings
Three Legal Strategies When Facing a Major Health Event: What You and Your Family Need to Know
How to Protect Your Retirement Account
2018 Midterm Elections: What Do They Mean For Your Estate Plan?: Strategic Planning Guidance in Light of the Midterm Results
Estate Planning Projects to Tackle in the New Year
Three Liability Planning Tips for Physicians You Can Use Too
June
3 Estate Planning Secrets the Wealthy Use That You Can Too!: Strategies to Enhance Your Success
Five Key Considerations for Your Estate Plan
Your Personal Property Memorandum: 4 Tips for Success
How to Coordinate Your Retirement and Estate Plans
How to Avoid a Disastrous Will or Trust Contest
Is Your Estate Plan Probate-Proof?
Want a Greater Sense of Purpose? Plan Your Legacy
What is Asset Protection and Do I Need It?
Caution: Your Traditional Asset Protection Plan Is Set Up to Fail
Your Vacation Checklist
Estate Plans for College Students and Other Young Adults: Why It’s the Perfect Time to Set Your Kids Up for Success
Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?
Discretionary Trusts – How to Protect Your Beneficiaries from Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Estate Planning Is Not Just About Money
Is Your Estate Plan Unfinished? Don’t Wait to Complete This Important Process!
When Equal Is Not Necessarily Fair
Lifetime QTIP Trusts – The Gift That Keeps Giving
One Year After the Historic 2016 Election: Strategic Estate Planning in Uncertain Times
Funding Your Revocable Living Trust to Avoid Probate
4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest
The Harmonious Family that Won't Fight
3 Asset Protection Tips You Can Use Now
Estate Planning for Rental Property Owners
Estate Planning is More Than Just Death Planning
The Trust Protection Myth: Your Revocable Trust Protects Against Lawsuits
Loan, Gift, or Advancement: Why the Classification Matters
What to Bring to Your First Meeting with the Estate Planning Attorney
April
March
February
January
2018
September
August
July
Not Married? You’re not alone - but you still need a plan. Estate Planning for People Living Together, Bachelors, and Bachelorettes
Are Your Documents Following the Same Script? Basics of Beneficiary Forms and Estate Planning
A Trust for Fluffy or Fido? Why Every Pet Parent Needs to Consider a Pet Trust Today
Roth IRA Conversions After Tax Reform...Still a good idea? What are the implications for your family if you don’t spend all the money?
Estate Planning When Not All of Your Kids are in the Family Business
Beneficiary Designations and a Blended Family: Why You Need to Think Before You Sign
The One Thing Every New Grandparent MUST Do As Soon as Possible
How to Fix 5 Common Estate Planning Problems
How to Leave Your Life Insurance and Retirement Plan to Your Minor Children
Financial Planning. Tax Planning. Legacy Planning. Estate Planning - How many plans do I need?!
Why Not Just Go on NoloⓇ and Create Your Own Estate Planning Documents Cheaply?
3 Things You Must Do Once Your Divorce Is Final
Protecting Your Children’s Inheritance When You are Divorced
Finding the Right Fit: Questions For Prospective Wills and Trusts Attorneys
The Biggest Threat to Successful Estate Planning
Steps For Starting the End-of-Life Conversation
Joint Tenancy Pitfalls: The ‘Simple’ Fix that Can Leave Your Family Broke
One Call You Must Make After You Buy a Home-That You’ve Probably Forgotten
3 Tips For Every New Homeowner
Declare your Independence from Court Interference!
What To Do With Your Beloved Collection
Legal Considerations When Getting Your New College Student Ready to Go
Digital Afterlife- An Estate Plan For Your Facebook Account
How an Estate Planning Letter of Intent Can Help Your Family
Kids and Investors Are Not the Only Options
Retirement Planning for Business Owners
Passing Along a Benefit, Not a Burden - Why Incapacity Planning for Business Owners is an Indispensable Component of Your Plan
March
February
2017
September
August
July
May
April
Updating Your Revocable Trust: How Many “Tweaks” Are Too Many?
U.S. Supreme Court Rules Inherited IRAs are Not Protected from Creditors
4 Tips for Avoiding a Will or Trust Contest
Three Liability Planning Tips for Physicians Anyone Can Use
Three Estate Planning Mistakes Farmers and Ranchers Make and How to Avoid Them
The Wrong Successor Trustee Can Derail Your Final Wishes
The Trust Protection Myth: Your Revocable Trust Protects Against Lawsuits
The Tragic Loss of Star Trek’s Anton Yelchin: Lessons for Estate and Legacy Planning
The Three-Year Review and The Three-Year Plan
The Shocking Truth About Asset Protection Planning
The Pros and Cons of Probate
The Perils of Promises...Marlon Brando’s Story
The Lifetime QTIP Trust: Or (How to Maintain Control of Your Estate and Keep Spouse No. 2 Happy)
The Lifetime QTIP Trust: Or (How to Maintain Control of Your Estate and Keep Spouse No. 2 Happy)
The IRS Took Half of Tony Soprano’s Estate: Don’t Fall into the Same Trap!
The Essential Legal Documents You Need for Incapacity Planning
Surprise! You Can’t Easily Disinherit Your Spouse in the U.S.
Stress Test Your Estate Plan
Sonny Bono’s Procrastination in Creating a Will Led to Years of Estate Battles
Skyrocketing Probate Fees – Another Reason to Avoid Probate Court
Revocable Trust vs. Irrevocable Trust: Which Is Best for You?
Prince’s Sad and Incredibly Expensive Mistake! (Are You Making It, Too?)
3 Powers to Consider Giving to a Trust Protector
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Will: 3 Critical Mistakes
Parental Warning: If You Own Your Property this Way, You May Accidentally Disinherit Your Own Children
Over 70% of Elvis Presley’s Estate Paid in Taxes & Fees: How Can You Avoid the Same Trap?
Nosey Neighbor Nellie Can Find Out About Your Probate. Really.
Michael Jackson’s Estate Pulled into Seemingly Endless Probate Court Battles
Lifetime QTIP Trusts – The Gift That Keeps Giving
Is Your Estate Plan as Stale as Last Week’s Ham Sandwich? 5 Reasons to Update Your Estate Plan
March
Is a Revocable Living Trust Right for You?
Is a Payable on Death Account Right for You and Your Family?
Irrevocable Trust Decanting in 4 Steps
IRS Announcement: Estate Tax Closing Letters Will Now Only Be Issued Upon Request
Investment, Insurance, Annuity, and Retirement Planning Considerations
If You Die Without a Will, Does Your Spouse Inherit Your Entire Estate?
How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney
How to Minimize the (Voluntary) Federal Estate Tax with Portability
How to Minimize Legal Fees After Death
HELP! This Probate Is Taking Forever!!!
Four Steps to Stop Mail Addressed to a Deceased Person
Five Things You Need to Know About the Recently ABLE Act
Flo Jo’s Tragic Mistake: A Missing Will
5 Reasons Why Uncle Bill May Not Make a Good Trustee
Financial Firms Roll Out Form Aimed at Stopping Financial Elder Abuse
5 Reasons to Embrace Estate Planning
Estate Planning: 3 Reasons We Run the Other Way
Estate Planning Basics for Newlyweds – How to Get Prepared for the Unexpected
Escape From a Bad Trust: 5 Strong Reasons to Decant Your Trust
Doris Duke’s Trustee Bilked Estate for $1M: How Well Do You Know Yours?
Don’t Leave Your Trust Unguarded: 6 Key Ways a Trust Protector Can Help You
Does Your Estate Plan Protect Your Adult Beneficiaries?
Who’s Going to Get It: Do You Really Know the Beneficiaries of Your Dynasty Trust?
Dispelling the Top 3 Estate Planning Myths
Discretionary Trusts – How to Protect Your Beneficiaries From Bad Decisions and Outside Influences
Did you include your grandkids in your will? 5 Tips to Avoid Common Problems
Did Whitney Houston Leave Too Much Money To Bobbi Kristina?
Dennis Hopper Saves Heirs with Last Minute Estate Plan Changes
Decanting: How to Fix a Trust That Isn’t Getting Better With Age
Avoiding Guardianship When you are Incapacitated
Decanting: How to Fix a Trust That Isn’t Getting Better With Age
Who Should I Choose as a Successor Trustee
Celebrities Who Failed To Recognize Unborn Children in Their Wills: A Teachable Lesson
February
Caution: Your Traditional Asset Protection Plan is Set Up to Fail
How to Choose a Trustee
Name a Guardian for Your Child
Caution: Creditors Now Have Easy Access to Inherited IRAs
Big Bang Theory Star’s “Ironclad” Prenup Challenged: How Does Yours Compare?
Will Your Family Be Able to Find Your Original Last Will?
Ways to Avoid Court Proceedings
Are Handwritten Intentions Enforceable? Princess Diana Thought So…
An Estate Planning Checklist to Facilitate Wealth Transfer
Aging.gov: A New Resource for Older Americans and Their Families
AB Trusts – Do You Need to Get Rid of Yours?
A Powerful Exercise to Surface the Values You Want to Pass on to the Next Generation
10 Types of Trusts: A Quick Look
5 Tragic Mistakes People Make When Leaving Assets to Their Pets
5 Things Every New Mother Needs to Know About Wills
New Legislation Could Mean the End of Estate and GSTT Taxes What This Means for You and Your Family
5 Reasons to Protect Your Retirement Accounts Now
5 Mistakes Made by Successor Trustees (and How to Prevent Them)
5 Good Reasons to Decant a Trust
3 Ways to Minimize Estate Planning Fees
3 Tips for Overwhelmed Executors
3 Simple Ways to Avoid Probate Costs
3 Reasons You Want to Avoid Probate
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
AB Trusts – Do You Need to Get Rid of Yours?
How to Pick a Trustee, Executor, and Agent Under a Power of Attorney
Better to Play it Safe: Proactive Estate Planning and Cognitive Impairment
Will Your Revocable Living Trust Avoid Probate? It Depends.
Why Your Estate Planning Project Must Morph into a Process
Estate Planning Tips for Commitment Without Marraige
3 Celebrity Probate Disasters and Tragic Lessons
3 Examples of When an Irrevocable Trust Can – and Should – Be Modified
January
2016
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2015
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2014
2013
2012


Nennig Law Offices, LLC assists clients in Madison, WI and throughout Southern Wisconsin including Verona, Middleton, Sun Prairie, Cross Plains,Sauk City, Belleville, Waunakee, Mount Horeb, Oregon, Black Earth, DeForest,Monona, McFarland, Stoughton, Cambridge, Deerfield and Fitchburg.



© 2021 Nennig Law Offices, LLC
6418 Normandy Ln, Ste 225, Madison, WI 53719
| Phone: 608-661-4333

Estate Planning | Asset Protection | Business Succession Planning | Special Needs Planning | Planning for Children | Advanced Estate Planning | Probate & Estate Administration | Estate Planning for High Net Worth Individuals | Estate Planning with Wills | Trusts & Estate Planning | Estate Planning for Non-Traditional Families | Estate Tax Planning | Estate Litigation | Guardianships | Pet Trusts | COVD-19 | Who We Are | Becoming A Client

Attorney Website Design By
Zola Creative