Wills: the best way to leave OK property to your loved ones

Many Oklahoma residents with property decide at some point to make sure it will pass to their heirs when they die. This can be something as simple as a coin collection, antique automobile or something far grander, such as real estate holdings and investment portfolios. Regardless of the size of their estate, many people bump up against a fundamental question: Which one offers better protection for my assets and property -- a will or a trust?

What are the advantages of a will? A will is your written instruction about the disposal of your property when you die. Wills in Oklahoma only require their makers to be "of sound mind" and at least 18-years-old. A will gives you final say on where your property or assets go and keeps them out of the probate court system, where a judge would follow state law and distribute your assets accordingly. Your relatives might get them, but there are no guarantees. A will also allows you to choose a personal representative to execute your will. You are not required to take further action after signing a will, although reviewing one periodically is highly recommended.

What are the advantages of a trust? A trust is generally more difficult to set up, but it offers you the main advantages of a will and the possibility of income to a beneficiary while you are still alive. A trust requires ongoing maintenance as you acquire or dispose of property and assets. Anything not covered in a trust's provisions could end up in probate.

Are there alternatives to wills and trusts? In Oklahoma, several alternatives are available, including a Transfer on Death deed that allows you to retain full ownership of real property while you are alive but gives it to your beneficiary when you die.

Source: OkBar.org, "Do You Need A Will or Trust?," accessed on March 14, 2015

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