Creating a will is an excellent way of ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, that guardians are named for any pets or minor children, and that loved ones who rely on you financially are cared for in the event that you are to die.
The following considers what will happen if you die without a will, the foundations of a valid will in Oklahoma, and how an attorney can help.
The Purpose of a Will
There are three main components of a will:
First, you will choose someone as the executor of your will – this person will be responsible for ensuring that the stipulations of your will are carried out according to your wishes.
Second, you will make decisions about who will receive your property – this may include leaving assets to family members, charities, or friends.
Third, if you have minor children, you can name a guardian for these children. A will cannot be used to reduce estate taxes or leave certain types of property (such as property within a living trust).
If you die without a will, you will not have a say over who receives your property.
In Oklahoma, your property will go through the probate process, and then be divided per Oklahoma’s intestacy laws.
These laws favor spouses and children, but may not be aligned with your personal wishes for your estate. (As a note, if your estate is controlled by a prenuptial contract, this contract will trump intestacy laws).
The Basics of a Valid Will in Oklahoma
It is not enough to just sit and write down what you want to have happen to you assets; just because a will is created does not necessarily mean it is valid. In Oklahoma, in order for a will to be valid, it must:
- Be created by someone of a sound mind
- Be created by someone who is at least 18 years of age
- Be signed by two witnesses
- Be signed by the testator (the person creating the will) in the presence of the two witnesses.
As the creator of a will, you have the right to change or revoke your will at anytime – doing so is quite common. It is important that you make these changes in conformity with the law to ensure will validity.
The Benefits of Working with an Attorney
A will is a legally binding document. Without the assistance of an attorney during the creation of the will, your will may be rendered invalid due to errors in its construction (i.e. not having a witness’ signature), may neglect to take into account certain property or people, or may have underlying complications that could significantly and adversely affect beneficiaries.
In other cases, you may want to cut someone out from your will – like a spouse or child – but may be barred from doing so based on state laws.
An attorney who knows the law and can advise you throughout the process is essential.
Contact the Erik Johnson Law Office Today
If you live in Ada or surrounding areas, the experienced Oklahoma wills and estate planning attorney at the Erik Johnson Law Office can provide you with the legal advice you are looking for.
Contact us for a free case consultation. You can reach us at (580) 279-1975.