What are wills under Oklahoma law and what exactly do they do?

At some point, perhaps the majority of Oklahoma residents decide they want to leave behind whatever they cannot take with them when they die. This is when the topic of how to write wills most frequently comes up. Even though the intention is obvious -- to provide for one's loved ones -- what a will actually does and does not do is often mysterious. The following may provide helpful information.

A will is a written document, which can be made by any Oklahoman 18-years-old or older who is of sound mental state, which will be legally binding if done correctly. A will serves to legally dissolve the testator's estate by distributing property and collecting and paying off debts and taxes. It names an executor to handles all of these affairs after the testator dies.

A will names the people or organizations that testators want to leave property to when they die. The term "property" encompasses everything from real estate to stocks and bonds, cash and personal collections such as coins and stamps and motor vehicles.

What does not qualify as a will? Oklahoma will not consider a will to be letters, instructions or notes about the disposal of property after someone's death, especially those tucked inside other legal documents such as powers of attorney and living wills.

What happens if someone dies without leaving a will? When an Oklahoman dies without a named executor or legal instructions on the disposal of the person's estate, a court will appoint an administrator to settle those affairs. This could be someone the deceased person may not have chosen. Property will be distributed along state guidelines that tend to leave most it to living relatives, although the process can take longer than the disposal of an estate through a will.

Source: Aging Services Division, "About Your Will," Accessed April 12, 2015

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