No two estate plans are alike.  The plan appropriate for your needs depends on several factors such as the size of your estate, the total number of heirs, the location and complexity of the properties, and tax considerations, to name a few.  However, there are some estate planning tools that we believe should be a part of every estate plan.  In this article, we discuss the 5 essential estate plan tools that you should consider making a part of your estate plan.

If you or a loved one need help navigating the estate planning process or would like to consult with an attorney to discuss your options, please contact Niroula Law by calling (405) 456-9250, or by filling out the Contact Us Form.

An Oklahoma last will and testament disposes of your estate upon death

Last will and testament is one of the most widely used estate plan tools by Oklahomans.  A will is a legal document, generally in writing, that is executed by the testator (or testatrix).  It outlines how and to whom the estate is to be disposed of at the time of the will writer’s death.

If your estate is fairly small with readily identifiable properties, heirs, and their location, a simple will may be sufficient to dispose of your property.

A handwritten will, also known as a holographic will, is valid in Oklahoma, as long as it is entirely written, dated, and signed by the testator’s hand.

Generally, a valid will must be in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by two witnesses.  Oklahoma law does not require you to notarize a will unless you intend to execute a self-proved will.  In this case, in addition to the will being signed by the testator and witnessed, it must also be attested by a notary.

Oklahoma law does not require you to hire an attorney to prepare a last will and testament or to file it with a court clerk or any other governmental office.

An Oklahoma durable power of attorney helps manage personal affairs

A power of attorney allows another person (agent) to make financial decisions on your (principal) behalf.  However, if you would like the person to make financial decisions when you are unable to act for yourself, then you must execute a durable power of attorney.

A valid power of attorney must be signed by the principal.  Unlike a will, this document is not required to be witnessed.  However, it’s recommended that you notarize it.  A power of attorney created by following the rules under the Uniform Power of Attorney Act is durable unless it expressly provides that it is terminated by the principal’s incapacity.

An Oklahoma durable healthcare power of attorney helps make healthcare decisions

A standard power of attorney does not authorize the agent to make healthcare decisions, which is why you must execute a separate durable healthcare power of attorney document.  A durable power of attorney for healthcare allows your agent to make healthcare decisions for you and is not affected by subsequent incapacity or disability.

A healthcare power of attorney must be signed by the principal and witnessed by two individuals who are 18 years of age or older.  You do not have to notarize this document for it to be valid.

An Oklahoma advance directive outlines your end-of-life healthcare wishes

An advance directive for healthcare is an estate plan document that appoints a healthcare proxy and instructs healthcare professionals on how to address end-of-life situations.  This document has two parts, one is called the living will, and the second one is the appointment of a healthcare proxy.

The living will portion of the document instructs healthcare professionals on how to deal with the end-of-life situations such as persistent unconsciousness, terminal conditions, and end-stage conditions.  You can direct the healthcare professionals on whether or not to administer life-sustaining treatments and artificially administered food and hydration in such end-of-life situations.  Through the appointment of a healthcare proxy, one can appoint an individual who can make healthcare decisions for you if you are no longer able to make such decisions.

An Oklahoma advance directive must be signed by the declarant, and witnessed by two individuals who are 18 years of age or older.  The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries in the will or heirs at law.  You are not required to notarize an advance directive.

An Oklahoma revocable living trust helps you protect your privacy and provide flexibility

Although a trust is not considered a must-have tool in every estate planning arsenal, it can be very effective in avoiding the probate process, maintaining privacy, and providing flexibility and control in the estate distribution process.  There are many types of trusts, and a revocable living trust is only one of them.

Basically, what a living trust does is it outlines how, when, and for what purpose the property is to be held and distributed.  However, unlike a last will and testament, the living will is effective while you are alive.  Under such a trust you can name yourself as a trustee which allows you to use and enjoy the property as long as you live.  After you pass away, the successor trustee will ensure the distribution of the assets according to the instructions in the trust.

Since a trust instrument avoids probate, the trustee and beneficiaries’ information remains private, unlike in the case of a will which becomes a public record during probate.  This process is much quicker and less costly than going through a probate process.  Whether a revocable trust is a right tool for you, depends on your estate planning needs and goals.

OKC Estate Planning Attorney Serving all Oklahomans

Vivid Niroula is an estate planning attorney based in OKC, who has experience with estate planning for an estate of varying sizes.  He takes pride in his work, is highly responsive, and provides client-focused services.  If you would like Vivid Niroula to help you with your estate plan so that your assets are protected and your wishes honored, please contact Niroula Law by calling (405) 456-9250, or by filling out the Contact Us Form.