The revocable trust is often the foundational piece of any estate plan. Revocable trusts give instructions for what is to happen to your property if you are not able to act for yourself or upon your death. Trusts are usually preferable to using only a will because they avoid probate. Probate is the process by which the district court determines who gets what. Wills must go through probate.
Another advantage of using a revocable trust is privacy. Because trusts are not probated, assets held by a trust and the instructions given by a trust remain private. In contrast, once a will is probated a list of assets and the beneficiaries are public record.
Although Elwell and Spain often recommends the use of a revocable trust for estate plan, there are estate plans which do not benefit greatly from a trust. We always take a process-driven approach to identify the most beneficial estate planning tools for each client. If a trust is selected we help our client ensure that the trust is properly funded and effective.
All estate plans should at least include a will. Wills accomplish two important goals. They name the executor of your estate and they list the beneficiaries of your property. Without a will, it is likely that your property will be distributed to heirs determined by state statute. These laws do not always conform to people's expectations. For example, it is typical for children to receive half of a married couple's assets upon the first spouse's passing. There are some tools you can use to prevent this outcome (property held jointly with rights-of-survivorship, payable on death accounts, and beneficiary forms, to name a few). Nonetheless, the will is best way to ensure your wishes are followed upon your passing.
A common misconception is that wills do not need to be probated in district court. Unfortunately, Oklahoma still requires wills to be probated. Elwell and Spain is experienced in navigating the probate process and can help you establish a will-based estate plan that makes the probate process as easy as possible for the estate executor.
Medical and Financial Power of Attorneys
Power of Attorneys, both medical and financial, are an essential part of the estate planning puzzle. Without these documents a court administered guardianship could become a reality. These documents name an agent to act on your behalf if you are no longer able to act for yourself. Because of the technical nature of these documents it is a good idea to have an experience attorney at least review any previously established power of attorneys.
Oklahoma allows for the use of an Advanced Directive. This document gives directions to medical professionals if you are not able to do so. It also allows you to elect an individual to help make these decisions.