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Under Oklahoma law, your assets would be subject to a process called probate, or estate administration, if you were to die intestate (without a will). During probate, someone is appointed to serve as personal representative for the estate. They will be responsible for making an inventory of the estate’s assets and distributing those assets, all while the court monitors the process.

What Should The Ultimate Goal Of Estate Planning Be In Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, a proper estate plan takes care of the person’s needs in the event that they cannot. It’s best to focus on the people, money, and assets that will take care of you while you are still living and to make a plan for how you want those assets to be distributed to your heirs after you’re gone.

What Are The Common Questions Or Concerns That People Have About Estate Planning?

The most common issue that I see when I’m working with clients is that people always think they have more time to take care of the important aspects of their estate planning.

As far as questions go, people ask about giving up control of their assets. Can they change things? Can they make adjustments later? The answer to both questions is yes. Very few of our plans are ironclad or set in stone so that they can never be changed. In fact, our plan is to make sure that your plan will always reflect whatever your wishes are, no matter if they do change drastically.

When Is The Best Time To Do Estate Planning? Is It Ever Too Early?

Once a family grows beyond two people, it’s really the time to start making formal plans in the form of an estate plan, though I wouldn’t say it’s ever too early to do an estate plan. Oklahomans are coming into wealth at different ages. Again, you definitely want to make an estate plan and have documents setting forth who will care for your child once any children come into the picture. It’s best to also plan for who will care for you and how your assets will be distributed to care for each of the members of your family.

How Often Do You Recommend That People Review And Revise Their Estate Planning Documents?

I recommend that people go back and review their estate plan every time a significant life change has occurred, whether that be a death in their family, the marriage of a beneficiary, a divorce, or some other significant life change. It can even be something as small as buying a new car or a boat or a house. Anything that pops up in the brain as a significant life decision should signal a reason to call your advisor and your lawyer to review your estate plan and make any changes that are required.

Can I Do My Own Estate Planning?

You can do your own estate plan if you want. There are some very simple templates out there that can potentially get you to where you want to be. However, the most common mistake that people make is simply not understanding the power of the documents they are transferring. For example, you can draft and execute your own power of attorney document, but what you may not understand is that if you give your brother a power of attorney and it goes into effect immediately, your brother can clear out your bank account. That is just one of the common examples of people not understanding the full power and scope of an estate plan and the documents that go with it.

What Are The Major Mistakes People Make When They Try To Handle Their Own Estate Planning Without The Advice Of Experienced Legal Counsel?

The biggest challenge for a layperson when doing their own estate planning is just understanding the law and the impact that the document will have. Under Oklahoma law, if you have only a last will and testament, your loved ones will have to go to court and go through the probate process when you die. They will need to hire an attorney to shepherd them through that process. That’s something most people here in Oklahoma don’t seem to know. When you do your own estate planning, you risk not understanding what will happen, what the consequences will be.

What Are Some Core Estate Planning Documents That Should Be Part Of Everyone’s Estate Plan?

There are several core documents that everybody should have. Let’s start with the incapacity documents, which cover your powers of attorney, your HIPAA authorization (so that people can get medical information about you), and of course, your advanced directive for healthcare, also known as the living will.

Once you move past your incapacity documents, you look at trusts, which are usually revocable living trusts or irrevocable trusts. In certain cases, a special needs trust can be appropriate.

Finally, you should always include what’s known as a pour-over will. This is just a simple document that basically says if you forgot any assets that are subject to probate, please send them over to your trust.

For more information on Dying Intestate in the State of Oklahoma, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (405) 342-0022 today.

Chase Grant, Esq.

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