Even if you can’t take your property with you when you die, you likely want some control over who receives it. You might want to help the people you love, give back to your church or support a charitable cause with a bequest. You might have pets that you want to go to good homes. Unfortunately, even if people have preferences, they don’t always get around to creating a valid will. When those people pass away, their loved ones have to settle their affairs without any guidance. This process, referred to intestate succession, is determined by Oklahoma law, not the decedent’s preferences. At Denker & Zuhdi, PLLC, our estate planning and probate attorneys help clients avoid intestacy and assist surviving loved ones administer the estate of someone who died with a will. We draw on decades of experience to prevent estate complications and to resolve them in a timely, cost-effective manner when they arise.
Intestate succession is the process that occurs when a person dies without having established a will or another type of estate planning document addressing the disposition of their property when they die. In these situations, the probate court directs that assets be distributed in accord with the state’s intestacy law. This statute allocates the assets based on individual familial ties to the decedent.
Under Oklahoma law, heirs have rights based on their relation to the deceased and whether other relatives are living, as follows:
We should note that not all property passes through the probate process. Property held jointly with a spouse, such as a checking account, goes directly to the spouse. Assets that have named beneficiaries attached, such as a 401(k), pass to those beneficiaries. Some people choose to distribute their assets through trusts, and in those cases, the trustee transfers ownership to the trust beneficiaries.
Intestacy can lead to confusion and disappointment for family members, and might possibly trigger hurt feelings and litigation. To spare your family unnecessary emotional hardship while grieving your loss, you should take responsible steps to avoid intestacy. These might include:
Even if you’ve created a sound will, problems could arise if you don’t keep it current. If you’ve acquired new property or sold old property, or if a beneficiary has passed away, those circumstances could lead to partial intestacy. This means your will does not cover your entire estate. Whatever is outside the will must be dispersed according to Oklahoma intestacy law.
Denker & Zuhdi, PLLC advises clients on estate planning and represents them in probate proceedings. If you need to execute a will or settle an intestate estate, schedule a free consultation with one of the experienced and dedicated attorneys in our Oklahoma City law firm. Call us at 405-946-5533 or contact us online today.
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