There's more to Oklahoma estate planning than a drafting a will

Many Oklahomans believe that they have completed their estate planning when they draft a will. However, as one attorney points out, estate planning "isn't just about death and taxes; it's also about what happens if you get very sick and live." There are four essential documents that everyone should have to help ensure that their wishes are carried out.

A will is the most familiar document. By drawing up a will, you help prevent the courts from determining what happens not only to your money and property as well as any minor children. In the will, name an executor to manage your estate.

A living will is a different document, but an important one. Living wills, also called advanced health-care directives, specify your wishes if you become severely injured or ill. This is where you state what kind of resuscitative measure you want, if any, and what actions you want taken to attempt to keep you alive if there is little or no chance of recovery.

A medical power of attorney, also referred to as a health-care proxy, is used to designate someone to make decisions about your medical care if you cannot. While it may seem obvious to choose the person closest to you, you want to be sure that the person you select is someone who can remain calm under difficult circumstances.

A durable power of attorney also designates someone to make decisions in your stead if you are unable to. The durable power of attorney is in charge of financial and legal decisions. While you want to choose someone you trust, make sure that person knows how to handle money.

When you designate executors, guardians or powers of attorney in any of these documents, it's important to make sure that they are able, willing and qualified to handle the responsibilities you are giving them. An experienced attorney can offer advice on the qualities you want to look for. It's always best to designate a back-up person, particularly if the person you choose is a spouse or someone who could be critically injured or killed along with you in an accident.

Finally, make sure that your family and heirs are aware of your wishes and the people you've chosen to help carry them out. This will help avoid confusion and disputes at an already sad and stressful time for your loved ones.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Four Estate-Planning Documents Everyone Should Have" Tom Lauricella, Apr. 20, 2014

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