Remember the Ones Who Will Remember You
When the time comes to write a will, some people rely on old adages that say any scrap of paper can be used as a final testament. In theory that may be true, but a will drafting attorney might advise otherwise.
Some people turn to any one of numerous online will-drafting services, or buy will-drafting software in an effort to save time or money. Problems can arise when a cookie-cutter document fails to provide for the many circumstances that can turn a simple probate into a lengthy court battle.
A Tulsa will drafting attorney at The Wirth Law Office can help you avoid future pitfalls. In the long run, the services of a will drafting attorney can save your loved ones time and money, while providing you the assurance that your document is prepared correctly and that your desires will be carried out.
When to write a will
If you are waiting until you’re older to write a will, you’re not alone. For various reasons, many wait until illness or age convinces them otherwise. Some just never get around to it. Unfortunately, unforeseen circumstances can strike at anytime. No matter your age, your income or how much money you have in the bank, a will can help your loved ones answer the question “What would he or she want us to do with what’s left behind.” It’s not an easy question to anticipate.
For that reason, many are tempted to draft a will on a whim. Something might have happened to a family member, a friend or in the news that prompts us to think about our legacy. At such times, the urge might be to draft a will as soon as possible, in an effort to gain satisfaction that one’s affairs are in order. As the old saying goes, haste makes waste. A will drafted to stand the test of time requires deliberation and knowledge of the unique laws that govern disposition of property in Oklahoma.
The time to write a will is anytime have property or assets but don’t have a will. When changes occur in your family status — a marriage, a new child, an adoption, sometimes even the passing of a parent or grandparent, a divorce — the way your assets will be divided if you don’t have a will can change. End-of-life concerns can evoke a range of concerns and emotions, but when it comes to drafting a will, it’s important to be deliberate and thoughtful. That’s when it’s time to contact a qualified and experienced Oklahoma will drafting attorney.
The language of inheritance law can be archaic and confusing. Terms can have meanings unfamiliar even to an well-educated person. Here’s a brief guide to definitions of frequently used inheritance law terms:
Administrator: A person authorized to manage and settle an estate when none is named in a will, or when the named executor is unwilling or unable. More formally called an “administrator cum testamento annexo.”
Bequest: A clause in a will directing disposition of personal property.
Decedent: A person who dies, with or without a will.
Descendants: a person’s children — including those adopted — grandchildren and all future generations.
Devise: Any clause in a will directing disposition of a portion of a person’s estate, also called a “dispository clause.“
Devisee: A person entitled to land when property passes by will.
Estate: The sum of a person’s assets minus any liabilities at a particular time.
Estoppel: Legal doctrines that prevent a person from denying or asserting anything other than what has been legally established as true.
Executor: A person named in a will to manage and settle an estate. Also called a personal representative.
Executor de son tort:An unauthorized person who takes charge of a decedent’s property.
Heir: A person entitled to property when property passes by intestate succession.
Intestacy: Not having a will or dying without a will.
Intestate: A person who dies without a will.
Intestate succession: The process by which an estate is managed and settled when there is no valid will.
Issue: A decedent’s descendants, including those adopted.
Legacy: A clause in a will directing disposition of money.
Legatee: A person entitled to personal property when property passes by will..
Probate: A process that establishes or disproves the validity of a will
Testamentary freedom: An individual’s authority to control the disposition of their property after death.
Testator: A decedent who left a will.
One error in preparing wills that happens all too often is the failure to properly store an otherwise well-written will. Common sense might suggest a safe-deposit box at a bank. But what happens if no one knows where the document is stored? Such a circumstance can arise when details are left with a person who, for whatever reason, is unavailable when an estate is in probate.
A similar risk involves leaving a will with one’s personal belongings — perhaps in a fireproof box — or leaving multiple copies of a will in multiple places. What happens if a dispute arises among those who might be interested in an estate? A document might be lost, destroyed or altered –innocently or maliciously — and others involved may have no way of proving what happened.
Likewise, even when we muster the courage to consider our own end-of-life concerns, we often dare not dream of a circumstance where tragedy can strike anyone else. Simultaneous deaths can claim the lives of those named as personal representative in a will. An experienced will-drafting attorney can anticipate such circumstances to give you the assurance your final wishes will be honored.
Another pitfall some make in inheritance planning is to assume laws or rules they learned long ago, or in another state will govern disposition of their estate. That’s usually not true. Inheritance law varies widely from state to state. A will drafting lawyer familiar with the latest legislation and case law in Oklahoma can provide you the confidence you need.
Other Estate Planning considerations
Writing a will is the simplest way to exercise your constitutional right of Testamentary Freedom, but it’s far from a comprehensive approach to exercising your right to determine what will become of your assets beyond your lifetime. Gift taxes and estate taxes — begrudgingly called the “death tax” — can significantly diminish how much of your estate is available for inheritance.
Oklahomans have strong and diverse beliefs about what comprises a family. For better or worse, even among tradititional families, divorce leaves deep rifts and brings news bonds. The role of step-children or adopted children and the orderly transfer of assets among non-traditional families requires advance planning and careful consideration. Contact a lawyer at the Wirth Law Firm today if you have questions about how Oklahoma law might affect your right to determine the future of your estate.
A will drafting attorney at The Wirth Law Office can advise you about the best mechanisms to for you to be certain your inheritance goes where you choose instead of where politicians or courts decide. A will drafting lawyer can also advise you about trusts, living wills and power-of-attorney documents that will give you the control to which you are entitled over the estate you’ve built in your lifetime.
If you would like a free consultation with an Oklahoma lawyer about writing a will that can stand the test of time, call the Wirth Law Office at (918) 879-1681 (or toll free at (888) Wirth-Law) or submit a question using the form at the top right of this page.