This is the next article in my series on crucial tools that – at the minimum – I believe should be a part of everyone’s estate plan.  Contrary to widespread belief, an estate plan is not just for the wealthy.  It’s a fantastic tool that I believe should be employed by everyone regardless of the size of their estate.  Not only does it dispose of a person’s property accordingly to their wishes, but it also makes the probate process easier ( in the case of a will), avoids probate altogether, saves time and money, and helps keep the peace between family members.

My last article listed some “bare minimum” estate planning tools, which we will discuss in this series.  It also stated the importance of hiring an estate planning attorney who can review the facts, assess your situation, discuss your goals and make recommendations.  A well-written estate plan document is prepared correctly, lawfully executed, clearly written, inclusive of provisions for minors, simplifies probate (in case of a will), reduces the chance of will contest, and keeps peace among the family.  This article will focus on the last will and testament, briefly discussing its drafting and execution.  If you or a loved one is looking to prepare an estate plan in the Oklahoma City area, it’s crucial to hire an estate planning attorney who can ensure that your testamentary wishes are precisely carried out.  If you need assistance, please contact our Oklahoma City estate planning law firm to speak with an Oklahoma wills and trusts lawyer.

A handwritten holographic will is valid in Oklahoma

I am frequently asked whether a handwritten will is valid.  The answer is YES!  A holographic will is one that is entirely handwritten, signed, and dated by the testator.  Such a will is valid under Oklahoma law.  However, any printed text or a document not written in the testator’s own handwriting will invalidate a holographic will.  If you choose to handwrite a will, ensure that the entire document is in your own handwriting.  After completing the will provisions, include the date, and sign your name, with the signature being the final element on the document.  Unlike a self-proved will, a holographic will does not require witnessing or notarization.  Including witnesses or notarizing the will would actually invalidate it.

A will must be in writing, signed by the testator, and witnessed by two adults in Oklahoma

Generally, a will is considered valid if it is in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the will), and witnessed by two adults.  The testator must sign the document in the presence of witnesses, and the witnesses must sign at the testator’s request and in their presence.  The purpose of having witnesses is to prevent situations that may lead to fraudulent wills or execution under undue influence.  A simple will, in fact, has only a few requirements and isn’t required to be notarized.  Although such a will is legally sound, a self-proved will is by far the most preferred one.  We will discuss the self-proved will in the next section.

A self-proved will avoid the need for witness testimony during probate in Oklahoma

A self-proved will is essentially a simple will with a few additional requirements that eliminate the need for the witnesses to testify during probate.  All wills must go through a probate process, but a simple will must overcome an additional hurdle before being admitted into probate – a sworn testimony or an affidavit from the witnesses.  In contrast, a self-proved will includes a witness’s affidavit removing the necessity for witnesses to testify during probate.  This affidavit essentially confirms that the witnesses saw the testator sign the document and that the testator was mentally competent.  Unlike a simple will, which doesn’t require notarization, a valid self-proved will must be notarized.

Some will provisions include payment of debt and taxes, devises, and appointment of personal representative

A will is a legal document that primarily focuses on the transfer of the decedent’s estate, the appointment of a personal representative, and planning for minor or disabled individuals.  The specific provisions included in a will depend on the testator’s ultimate intentions, however, there are a few provisions that are commonly found in almost every will. Debts and exoneration: This provision provides instructions on how the testator’s debts, mortgage balance, medical bills, and funeral and burial expenses should be paid.   Taxes: While Oklahoma does not have an inheritance or estate tax, individuals with a large estate may still owe federal taxes.  This provision directs how these taxes, as well as any other taxes, should be paid.  Devises: This provision outlines how the testator’s personal and real property should be distributed, specifying who will receive what.  Appointment of personal representative: This provision appoints a trustworthy person whose responsibility is to carry out the testator’s intentions as outlined in the will.

If you are in search of a dependable estate planning attorney to draft a will for yourself or a loved one, look no further.  Contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation with an experienced OKC estate planning lawyer.  Our practice includes a wide range of estate planning services, and no estate is considered too small or too large.  Rest assured that your case will receive the utmost attention it deserves.  Schedule an appointment today by contacting us online or by telephone.  We proudly serve Oklahoma County, Logan County, Cleveland County, and Grady County.