Frequently Asked Questions

You can find answers to many of the questions you may have here.

A person does not have to be wealthy or elderly to do some serious thinking regarding an estate plan. If you own a home or a car or have a checking/savings account, you have estate. Often a person with a small or modest estate is most in need of a pan to provide for the proper transfer of that property at death.

A will is a written instrument by which you provide for the disposition of your property after your death. In Oklahoma, if you are of sound mind and 18 years or older, you may dispose of your property by will.

A revocable or living trust is a written document providing for the management of your property which becomes effective while you are living, unlike a will which takes effect after your death. A trust is set up for a trustee to manage your property for your benefit during your lifetime or in the event of our incapacity. Ordinarily you serve as the sole trustee until your die or become incapacitated. After your death, the trust document will provide for your successor trustee or distribute any remaining property to those persons or entities you have chosen (just as in a will) or provide for the continued management of your property by that successor trustee for many years, with the ultimate distribution as you direct. The primary advantage of a revocable trust over a will is that upon your death, the administration of your property is governed by your trust outside of the probate court system.

This normally results in a quicker and less costly distribution of your property to the people you have selected. In addition, a revocable trust is a private document which is not recorded at the courthouse or anywhere else.

There are several reasons to have a will or a trust. Most importantly, having a will or trust allows you to decide who will receive your property rather than leaving that choice to state law.

Having a will allows you to choose your persona l representative. Without a will, the court could appoint someone as person representation other than a person you would choose.

Having a trust allows you to avoid the probate court system altogether if your trust is created and funded properly.

Equally important, if you have minor children you can name their guardian in your will or trust. Your selection of a guardian in not binding on the court, but the court will give strong consideration to your selection. Without a will or trust, the court may appoint a guardian other than the person you would have chosen.

No. Joint tenancy is a useful state planning tool, but to rely solely on joint tenancy ownership for estate planning is generally a poor idea. Usually home and bank accounts are owned by married couples as joint tenants. Upon the death of the first joint tenant, the property passes to the survivor by law. The survivor becomes the sole owner of the property and should make additional provisions for distribution upon his or her death. If real property is held in joint tenancy, an affidavit must be filed at the courthouse in order to terminate the joint tenancy. Your attorney can advise you on this procedure.
There are creditor hazards and tax hazards in holding property in joint tenancy as well as other possible complications and expenses.

Your attorney can advise you as to whether the use of joint tenancy is appropriate. Joint tenancy is simply not an adequate substitute for a will or a trust in many cases. Furthermore, if both joint tenants dis simultaneously, both of their estates will require probate; although, in some instances, both estates can be probated or administrated through one court action.

Oklahoma provides several methods of transferring property upon a/your death. One of the recent additions is a “Transfer on Death deed” which provides for the transfer of real property to a named beneficiary upon the death of the owner, with the owner retaining full ownership during his or her lifetime. Oklahoma also provides “Transfer on Death” or “Payable on Death” for other types of property, including bank accounts, corporate stock, and other types of personal property. Oklahoma recognizes the division of real property between a life estate and a reminder interest, with certain persons owning the real property during the lifetime of one or more named person, with the property becoming fully owned by the designated remainder interest owner upon the death of the named persons. Trusts other than revocable trusts also exist which are useful planning methods and can be used separately or in conjunction with a will or a trust to achieve your desired estate plan.

It is a particular type of property ownership by which two or more persons may own real estate or personal property together. It differs from other types of co-ownership in several respects, the most commonly known is that upon the death of one joint tenant, his or her interest automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant, who becomes sole owner.

No. A properly drawn will disposes of all of a person’s property according to the person’s plan at death. A joint tenancy only affects the particular property described in the instrument creating it. Therefore, a will is needed to dispose of any property not held in joint tenancy.

In some cases, yes. However, they are rarely the best method of holding property. Only a lawyer is qualified to advise you on the best method of holding title property and your case will differ from every other case.

Upon the death of a property owner, Oklahoma law provides for legal process to determine the assets, asses their value, and distributes them to creditors and heirs. Such procedure takes them to the district court of the county where the deceased property owner lived. If there is a property of deceased located in another state additional proceedings called “ancillary administration” will be necessary in that state. Oklahoma law provides for the probating of estates to protect all parties who have any interest in the estate.

An estate is probated for the following reasons:

  • To identify and collect the property and assets of the estate
  • To protect the property of the estate
  • To pay debts and taxes
  • To determine who is entitled to share in the estate and distribute the property to the proper parties
  • In the case of real estate and other record ownership property, probate provides a method to secure the legal transfer of such record ownership and thereby maintain a clear chain of title to the property.

Some property may not be included in the probate estate, such as life insurance, pension and/or profit sharing benefits, trust property and property held in joint tenancy; but this property is still generally subject to estate taxes. However, proper transfer of these assets may require considerable effort on the part of your attorney.

If a person dies without a will, the legislature has written a law determining how that person’s estate will be disturbed at death, called the law of descent and distribution. The law of descent and distribution will be subject to any prenuptial marriage contract. Assuming there is no prenuptial contract, if the deceased leaves a spouse and children of their marriage, the surviving spouse receives one-half of all property of the deceased, whether acquired by the joint industry of the husband and wife during the marriage or otherwise. The reaming one-half of the estate.

Family Matters.

Deal With It.

Plan For It.