Most people don’t want to think about the end of their lives, or those of their loved ones.
But, it will happen to everyone, sooner or later.
To spare your loved ones further grief, you should plan now.
Here are the things to consider in Oklahoma estate planning.
When you’re ready, we’re here to help.
Oklahoma estate planning: what’s involved?
Your estate is everything you own, and everything you owe.
You may be thinking that it’s only for the rich or elite, and that it’s a complicated process.
But, everyone owns something, and likely owes something. It doesn’t matter how much or how little.
An estate plan is essentially a set of legal instructions for your loved ones.
It can help ease your spouse’s mind during a painful time, knowing the details are taken care of.
It’s also about making sure they’re taken care of when you’re no longer around to help.
You’ve taken control of your life.
Make sure you take the same control over the end of your life.
We’ll go through the parts of estate planning and what it means for you.
It’s not just about property
A common misconception is that estate planning is only about assets.
And yes, your property is included:
- Household goods
- Any tangible asset
Your obligations are also included in your estate. Things like:
- Unpaid taxes
- Credit card debt
There are a few things that aren’t directly affected during this process:
- Retirement accounts and insurance policies with a named beneficiary
- Assets in a living trust
Debts that are owed are deducted from the available assets.
But what if there isn’t enough liquidity in your estate to pay what’s owed? Your property will be sold to cover them, which reduces what your family may receive.
Keep in mind this can also happen if you bequeath money to someone without enough cash in your estate.
This entire settlement process is handled during probate.
What is probate?
Probate is the process of the court approving the validity of your will.
Choosing an executor is an important part of your will.
Your executor is the person you’ve chosen to handle the process for you.
A good choice is someone who doesn’t have a conflict of interest.
During probate, your executor will safeguard and distribute your property and settle your debts.
If you don’t appoint an executor, the court will choose one on your behalf.
In Oklahoma, the first person on the list is a surviving spouse. He or she may assume the responsibility, or appoint someone else.
If they are unwilling or unable to be the executor, children, grandchildren or even your creditors may be appointed.
Do I need to have a will?
Technically, no – if you want your estate distributed only according to what the law allows.
While the laws are detailed, they aren’t going to follow your wishes. Because you didn’t tell them what they are.
If you pass away without creating a will, your estate is called intestate.
As intestate, the court will appoint an administrator (an executor not named by you).
The administrator will follow the current laws to settle your debts and distribute your remaining assets.
Complete your Oklahoma estate planning so you can create a will or trust to prevent that.
What’s a living trust?
A will distributes your assets according to your instructions after your death.
With a living trust, you place your assets into it now.
This may help avoid tax implications and other issues.
There are different types of trusts you can establish:
- Special needs: for a child that needs special care
- Charity: donate your assets (some or all) to a charitable organization
Charles Schwab offers some advice to help explain what a living trust is (and isn’t).
If you’re a business owner
If you own a business, regardless of the size, you should have a succession plan in place.
Who will run the company after you’re gone?
Should the business be sold instead?
There are tax advantages, as well, depending on how you structure the plan.
Forbes has five steps to creating a solid succession plan for your family business.
Medical issues that leave you incapacitated
Doing your Oklahoma estate planning while you’re young and healthy is ideal.
But who wants to think about it then? Unfortunately, not everything in life can be predicted.
One thing that your plan can cover is if something unexpected happens. Like an accident on an icy winter road, or an unforeseen illness.
While you can’t prevent those things from happening, you can have a plan if they do.
Power of attorney
As part of your estate plan, you can grant someone a durable power of attorney.
This allows them to act as your health care representative if you’re incapacitated.
You can also prepare an advanced directive: specific instructions for your end of life care.
Things like instructions about resuscitation and feeding tubes can be included.
While it may be difficult to think about these things, planning now can save more heartbreak later.
Take this very difficult burden off the shoulders of your family by planning ahead.
Funeral arrangements should be part of your planning, too
Making arrangements for your burial or cremation is likely the first thing your loved ones will be faced with after your death.
Why not take care of that now and save them the pain later?
As part of your Oklahoma estate planning, funeral arrangements can be made.
- Do you prefer cremation?
- Is there a family plot already arranged?
Depending on your choices, you may even be able to pay for them now.
If you’re an organ donor, make sure you leave those instructions, too.
How we can help
Oklahoma estate planning doesn’t have to be difficult nor complicated.
Yes, there are online templates and forms that you may be able to use to create a will. But why leave something so important to a form on a website?
An experienced attorney can help you and will ensure things are done right.
With more than fifteen years of law practice, Erik Johnson can help you navigate the process.
Contact us today to get started.