In a recent post, Findlaw, a large web-orientated legal business, suggests that "FindLaw’s estate planning content covers the range of options for our users to find the plan that fits them best." and that "FindLaw’s estate planning content includes….do-it-yourself forms." Is it a good idea to try to do one’s will by oneself, using online forms, without consulting an attorney?
Wisconsin is a "Marital Property" state and has been since 1986. Forms that are put online often fail to take that into consideration. As a result, forms that may be highly effective in many other states fail to perform properly in Wisconsin.
Under Wisconsin law, property acquired during a marriage is marital property. As such, each party owns one-half of it. If either party dies and attempts to give such property away, all they are effectively giving is one-half of the property. This can easily be remedied by a knowledgeable attorney who can draft other documents, including a Marital Property Agreement. You will note that most online form companies fail to include Marital Property Agreements in their form packages. Why, you ask? Because this is a very complicated area, and people grabbing online forms would make lots of big mistakes and sue the online companies for failing to provide the necessary advice.
That is only one simple but adequate reason why people, especially those in Wisconsin, should be wary of using online forms without consulting with a local attorney.
In Findlaw’s defense, they do mention in their article that, "anyone who has specific concerns or plans as to how they would like their estate distributed in the event of their death should consult with an attorney about whether a will is appropriate." They also provide links to local attorneys. One then wonders, why do they also provide the online forms????