Our Oklahoma City Estate Planning attorneys are here to help you plan for the distribution of your estate when you pass away. It’s common when a person passes away that a Will or Trust designates their final wishes and property disbursement. This is essentially what part of their estate goes to which surviving loved one. If a will or trust is not in place, then Oklahoma’s intestate succession laws will determine this. Okla. Stat. tit. 84 § 213 (1994) designates who the intestate heirs of a deceased person are and how property distributes upon death. In the event that you have no heirs and have not set up a Will, your estate passes to the State. This intestate passing of property to the State is “escheat”.
Therefore, a Last Will and Testament is one of the most important documents a person will draft in their life. The significance does not only stop with you though. A Last Will and Testament matters for your loved ones as well. Articulating your wishes and dividing property before you pass helps ease the process for your loved ones. It can also quell any possible feuds or competitions between family members.
Every Will and estate is different. Our Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorneys understand this and tailor your estate plan to your wishes. Further, we can legally advise you on how to protect your assets while making a plan specific to you.
Definition of Oklahoma Estate Planning:
Although a Will is a large part of estate planning, more is involved. Estate planning creates and implements a structure for how your wealth will transfer once you pass. You can begin your estate planning process during your lifetime and designate how it will function upon your passing. Further, it is important to begin early in life to plan for possible incapacity and guardianship. Estate planning in Oklahoma also includes a procedure of distribution of property and methods to avoid extra costs. For example, taxes, probative expenses, and administrative costs can all be avoided using the correct transfer procedures.
Dying Without a Will in Oklahoma:
Our Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorneys will explain to you that when a person passes and does not have a valid Will in place, they are said to die “intestate” under Oklahoma law. As mentioned above Okla. Stat. tit. 84 § 213 (1994) determines the distribution of the decedent’s property. Generally, Oklahoma divides property between members of the immediate family. The connection between the decedent and the benefactor determines to proportion of inheritance the benefactor receives. For example, if a married person dies intestate, but has no children or grandchildren, then their spouse will likely inherit the entirety of the estate.
Conversely, if the decedent passes and leaves a remaining spouse and only one child, with no other grandchildren, then the estate is divided equally among the spouse and the child. Further, if an unmarried person dies intestate and has no children, but their parents are still living then the parents inherit the entire estate of their deceased child. Finally, to make things even more complex, if an unmarried person with no children dies intestate and their parents are also deceased, then if the decedent has any siblings, their siblings inherit the estate. Clearly, having a will simplifies this type of process.
Oklahoma Law and Wills:
In Oklahoma, a Will designates how a deceased person’s real and personal property divides among heirs. For a Will to be valid in Oklahoma, it must be in writing and include two witnesses. There is a narrow exception to this known as a “nuncupative will”.
Oklahoma allows generally any competent person to serve as a witness for a Will. However, if one of the witnesses is also listed in the Will as a beneficiary, then statutes restrict what the witnessing beneficiary may receive.
Wills in Oklahoma are “ambulatory,” which means they can change anytime during the life of owner of the estate. Thus, the Will is only final upon the death of the testator and not before.
Codicils to Oklahoma Wills:
First, you may be asking what a Codicil is. It is a supplement to a Will that changes conditions or bequests in the original Will. It also requires writing and two witnesses. However, a codicil cannot completely nullify a prior Will.
Holographic Wills in Oklahoma:
Holographic Wills are a recognized practice in Oklahoma, but not all states. It is a hand-written will that is dated and signed by the testator. It must be in this form and can be written while in or out of the State of Oklahoma. The hand-writing must be the testator’s hand-writing. Any portions of the holographic will that are not in the writing of the testator are generally not acknowledged by the court. Under Okla. Stat. tit. 84 § 54, a witness is not required for a holographic will.
Self-Proving Wills in Oklahoma:
Oklahoma also recognizes self-proving Wills. These are wills whose proper execution is found in an affidavit within the Will. This affidavit is signed by two witnesses in the presence of a Notary Public. The point of a self-proving Will is to keep witnesses from having to testify in probate court upon disbursement of the property.
“Living Wills” or Advanced Health Care Directives:
A Living Will is in actuality not a Will. It is a writing of a person stating that if they are in a medical state with little or no chance of recovery, then to not prolong their life with extraordinary medical procedures such as life support.
Our Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorneys understand the value and wishes of some to “die with dignity” and not be left to breathe with the help of a machine alone. Because we understand this right, our attorneys can draft Advance Health Care Directives. These are designed to ensure you receive the end of life care you request.
Trusts in Oklahoma:
The legal process that creates a fiduciary relationship over real and personal property results in a Trust. The trust is held by a trustee for the benefit of another person. This other person is referred to as a Trustor. This type of relationship separates the administrative responsibilities of property from the trustor. Trusts give a great deal of control to a deceased person over who receives the property and when and/or how the trust is used and distributed. Trusts can be testamentary in nature, which is irrevocable. They can also be living trusts. Living trusts are revocable or irrevocable; each comes with its own benefits.
For example, once created as an irrevocable trust, the trustor’s assets are attributed to the trustor for tax purposes. Further, no creditors are allowed access to the trust for outstanding payments. And finally, trusts avoid probate court. This cuts out the expensive and time consuming process of having to go through the legal system for your inheritance.
Contact our Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorneys:
If you’ve got questions regarding estate planing and probate we can help you. Our Oklahoma City Estate planning attorneys have handled all types of estate planning and asset protection issues. From probates and wills to complex trusts and health care directives we have the answers that you need. End of life planning and asset protection doesn’t have to be so hard. Call today and get the legal edge you deserve.