Considering how to best take care of your family may occupy a great deal of your time. You work to ensure they have everything they need to live comfortably and thrive. What about after you pass away? You may have considered taking care of your family in the event of your death, and you may have begun researching the best way to do that.
When you start to consider how to structure your estate plan, it also helps to understand how your plan will fare during the probate process. This not only affects how quickly your family receives the assets you want them to have, but it also affects the amount of work and stress your surviving family members will need to endure while they grieve for your loss.
Reasons for probate
Probate essentially wraps up your financial life after your death. Under Oklahoma law, the probate process is designed to allow your personal representative to handle the following on your behalf:
- Paying your last taxes and debts
- Gathering and inventorying your property
- Protecting your property
- Transferring ownership of your real property
- Identifying your heirs and beneficiaries
- Distributing your property
A last will and testament makes this process easier on your family since it memorializes your wishes. It also helps to make sure that you keep all documentation relevant to your assets and liabilities in either a prearranged place or one easily found after your death.
How long probate will take depends on numerous factors. You can help reduce some of the time by making sure that your personal representative can complete each of these tasks in a timely manner. In addition, you may structure your estate plan in a way that makes contesting your wishes unpleasant for heirs if you believe that might happen.
You may want also want to consider your trust options. A trust can not only clarify how and when assets should be distributed to heirs; a trust can also be a useful tool for minimizing taxes and keeping assets out of the probate process.
Caution: a will can be overridden by certain other documents
Some of your property may not pass through your will. For example, the proceeds of many employee-retirement benefits and life insurance policies are distributed in accordance with beneficiary designations. In most cases, these documents overrule any instructions you may put in your will.
How do I know I made the right choices?
Whatever your estate planning goals may be, an experienced probate and estate planning attorney can help you achieve them. To learn more about your options in Oklahoma, please see our estate planning overview.