What does a will do?

There are many benefits allowed to Oklahoma residents who draw up a will. Without one, however, a decedent's assets will automatically go to his or her next of kin in the manner laid out in state regulations.

By setting up a will, the owner, who is called a testator, is able to plan how his or her assets will be distributed following his or her death. In the will, the testator names an executor who will carry out the testator's wishes by managing the details of the will. The executor can be an individual or a business, such as a bank or corporation. The duties of the executor include paying off the deceased person's debts, including taxes and any outstanding bills, such as credit card debts or loans. The executor will then disperse the remaining assets to those who are the specified beneficiaries named in the will.

It is vital that the testator names an executor in his or her will. If an executor is not named, the court will decide who will handle the testator's estate. There is a possibility that the individual whom the court appoints to this role might not have been the person that the executor would have preferred.

A will guarantees that the testator's assets will go to the person or charity of his or her choice; however, Oklahoma law forbids any testator from disinheriting his or her spouse. By law, the spouse has a right to half of the decedent's assets or the larger portion of the assets identified in the will as long as the assets were obtained during the marriage.

A lawyer who has experience in drafting wills and trusts may be able to assist people in completing a will that tries to avoid disputes. Additionally, the lawyer may be able to explain the benefits of trusts in regards to estate planning.

Source: Aging Services Division, "About Your Will", October 30, 2014

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