Procrastination seems to be nearly universal when it comes to estate planning tasks. Many people feel they do not need to engage in estate planning because they have few assets, while others simply do not want to face their own mortality. Still others, believe estate planning is not an urgent matter, particularly those who are young. Unfortunately, accidents and illnesses happen, even to younger adults, and estate planning might just be more urgent than you think. Consider the following things which could occur if you continue to put off estate planning:
Although your level of assets may determine whether you need a will, a trust, or both, having an estate plan in place will make the process of concluding your affairs and settling your estate in accordance with Oklahoma law much easier for those you leave behind. There could be tax issues associated with your estate, accountings required by the courts, or even tax returns to be filed after your passing.
All of these issues can be dealt with in your estate plan, even down to whether you would like a funeral, whether you want to be buried or cremated, and whether you want to leave bequests to certain charities or entities. You may have personal items that you want to go to a specific person, and if you have minor children, having a will is imperative so that you can name a guardian of your choice for the children. After all, few people would want the state of Oklahoma—or any other state—to determine who will raise their children.
Your Oklahoma will can allow you to give your assets to those you care about, or even to an organization. You can name the guardian of your choice for your minor children in your will as well as naming an executor to ensure the terms of your will are carried out in the manner you would choose. In the state of Oklahoma, if you die intestate—that is, without a will—your assets will be distributed to your closest relatives (In the state of Oklahoma, your closest relatives begin with your spouse and your children). If you have no spouse and/or children, increasingly distant relatives will be sought. If you have no living relatives and no will, the state of Oklahoma will take your assets.
In the state of Oklahoma, your will must be signed in front of two witnesses, then those witnesses must also sign the will. While an Oklahoma will does not need to be notarized to be legal, the state does allow a “self-proving” will which does require that you go to a notary public. A self-proving will can speed up the process of probate, as your two witnesses will not have to be contacted.
While a trust can help your loved ones avoid the probate process, in many cases you will need both a trust and a will, particularly if you have minor children. The probate process is used to identify and collect the property associated with your estate, to pay any debts and/or taxes you may owe, to determine who is entitled to share in the estate, to distribute the assets to those parties, and to secure the legal transfer of real estate and other property, ensuring a clear chain of title to the property.
Unless the assets are in a trust, probate generally includes any property owned in your name alone that does not have a named beneficiary, although in the state of Oklahoma an estate that is worth less than $20,000 is not required to go through probate, rather successors can use a Small Estates Affidavit. Probate can take from several months to a year or more, depending on the level of assets and complexity of the estate.
There are many reasons you should strongly consider speaking to an experienced Oklahoma estate planning attorney from the law firm of Forbes & Renes. Even if you leave a will, an estate may have to go through Oklahoma probate, which can be costly, confusing and time-consuming. Your Forbes & Renes estate planning attorney may advise you to secure your assets in a living trust, ensure jointly-owned property includes survivorship rights, and that all your accounts, deeds, titles and vehicles have payment-on-death or transfer-on-death designations. If you live in the Oklahoma City metro area, Midwest City, Oklahoma County, or another Oklahoma location, contact a Forbes & Renes estate planning attorney today.