Oklahoma estate planning does’t have to be so hard. When an individual passes away his or her real and personal property is gifted to loved ones. This is done through either the person’s Will, a Trust or through the State’s intestate succession laws. In Oklahoma, if a person has a properly executed will, its terms will be enforced by the courts. However, if a person dies without a will (Intestate), Oklahoma statutes determine who your heirs are and what they receive. See Okla. Stat. tit. 84, § 213 (1994), for Oklahoma’s intestate distribution law.
If you have no will and no heirs at law, your estate will pass (i.e. escheat) intestate to the State of Oklahoma. For this reason and many others, a person’s last will and testament is one of their most important documents. Further, not only is this document significant to you, but it is crucial to your loved ones. This is because it sets out how you want to distribute your property.
Oklahoma Estate Planning Explained
Oklahoma Estate planning is much more than having a will. Estate planning is the process of creating and implementing programs for the protection and transfer of your wealth. Just as each person is unique, so to is their estate plan. Estate planning begins during your life and can continue long after your death. It lets you plan for many of life’s unforeseen things including guardianship’s and perhaps even your own incapacity. Proper planning helps to simplify the process of distributing your assets and also can save money on taxes and other administrative costs.
When Someone Dies Without a Will
To die without a valid will is to die “intestate.” When this happens the State of Oklahoma through its intestate distribution law decides how your property is distributed to your family. See Okla. Stat. tit. 84, § 213 (1994). In the State of Oklahoma the decedent’s property is divided among their immediate family. In what proportion and to who your property goes is decided mainly by how close in blood relation the family member is to you. If someone passes and they’re married your spouse will share with your children or grandchildren, In any event, regardless of your family situation, if you die without a will state law decides who gets what.
Wills Under Oklahoma Law
A will is an instrument or declaration you make that directs how your property is distributed. A will can be used to pass both personal property and real property like your home. The State of Oklahoma requires that every will be in writing and witnessed by two people. In some circumstances the will can also be oral but its limited. If someone is a beneficiary to the will they cant also act as a witness. If they’re a witness and they’re also a beneficiary the will is not valid. The reason is that the requirement of two witnesses isn’t met so the will is invalid.
Finally, a Will by definition is ambulatory, and can be changed at anytime prior to death. This means that the popular phrase, “Last Will and Testament,” as is often spelled out in the caption of a Will, is only truly final upon the Testator’s death.
What is a Codicil to a Will in Oklahoma?
A codicil is a supplement to a Will. A valid Codicil adds or deletes conditions or bequests found within the original Will. A codicil is subject to the same requirements as a Will. It is simply a later Will which does not altogether revoke a prior Will.
Oklahoma estate planning recognizes holographic wills. A holographic will is a hand written will. This handwritten will must also be dated and signed by the person who passed away. It doesn’t matter in what state you live when you hand write the will only that you understand what you’re doing when you write it. Unlike a traditional will, it doesn’t require that its witnessed.. The most important thing about a hand written will is that its in your own hand writing signed and dated. See Okla. Stat. tit. 84, § 54.
Living Will or Advanced Health Care Directive
This is not a Will at all. A living will directs a person you choose to decide when life saving measures are to stop. In the event that you’re put on a ventilator or other life sustaining machines it allows you or the person you named to decide when to let you die., Sometimes this is the most important part of your estate plan. By telling people that you do or don’t want to be kept alive by a machine you’ve relieved them of the burden. You can assign anyone you want in your health care directive. You can also decide on a medical professional to make the decisions.
What is a Trust
Trusts are very popular in Oklahoma estate planning. Trusts come in many forms and are set up for any number of reasons. They can be revocable or irrevocable. They can also be set up for specific purposes like medical trusts or charitable trusts. Additionally they’re often used as asset protection against certain creditors.
One advantage of a trust is that it avoids probate. This means that it doesn’t have to be a matter of public record or be approved by the probate court. A trust also reduces taxes and really helps you to dial out exactly how you want your estate distributed.