Some people in Oklahoma and elsewhere mistakenly think estate plans only function after a person dies. This couldn't be further from the truth. Although a final will and testament is a document administered after an estate owner's death, there are many other documents you can include in a thorough plan that have everything to do with situations that may occur while you're still living. Choosing what documents to include in a particular plan is an intensely personal decision.
Estate planning is a highly customizable process that you can adapt to suit your specific needs and long-term goals. There are several key documents that those who want to cover all their bases typically include in their estate plans.
Good plans include more than final wills.
If one of your main goals is to provide for your loved ones after you die, then you likely want to design an estate plan that allows for easy transfer of your assets to your heirs. In addition to a basic final will and/or trust, the following documents may serve your estate plan well:
- A durable power of attorney: This document remains in effect if you become incapacitated whereas a non-durable power of attorney is rendered invalid under such circumstances.
- Designated guardians of children: If you don't name someone to care for your minor children after you die, the court will do it for you, and there's no guarantee the court's choice will be the same one you would have made yourself.
- Designated beneficiaries: You can name one or more people to inherit assets from retirement accounts, investment plans, bank accounts and more.
- Letter of intent: Here's where you can leave specific instructions regarding your burial, what you want to have happen to a particular asset or any other matter of a personal nature.
You can also include a health care power of attorney that names someone you trust as a voice of authority to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to act on your own. Many Oklahoma residents execute solid estate plans by acting alongside experienced guidance.
One of the best resources in these matters is an estate planning and probate attorney. Not only can an attorney help draft an initial estate plan, he or she can remain on hand to update and change an existing plan as needed.