A common misconception family law attorneys encounter is that if someone dies without a designated will, his or her spouse will inherit all of the estate; or if there is no spouse, the children will be the beneficiaries of the estate. Neither of these statements is true in every case, and it is wise to consult an experienced family law attorney about the management of one’s estate after death. The purpose of having a will is to ensure that your wishes are carried out upon your demise. The following article is a discussion of what happens if you die without a will in Oklahoma and how a family law attorney can help protect your interests after death.
What Does a Will Do?
Simply put, a will is a signed legal document which states what is to be done with your estate when you die. A skilled family law attorney can help you draft and execute the document.
In Oklahoma, a will allows you to do the following things:
Decide how your property will be shared -Except where your spouse is lawfully entitled to some of your property, you are free to assign it to whomever you wish and in whatever proportions you wish.
Name the executor of your estate – This person will be legally responsible for carrying out the terms of your will and managing the affairs of your estate, such as paying bills and taxes and safeguarding the assets prior to distribution. Consult a knowledgable family law attorney to establish the executor of your estate and the proper management of your affairs.
Name a guardian for your children – If you have children under 18 years of age and do not have a surviving spouse, you may wish to name a person to whom you can entrust your children’s well being. This person may also be nominated to manage any money inherited by your underage children as well. Sometimes it can be hard to imagine a future where you’ve died and your underage children are left without a parent or guardian. Thus, when planning for the future of your minor children, it is wise to have a family law attorney come alongside you to help you in those decisions.
What if I Die Without a Will?
If you die and you don’t have a will, your property will be distributed according to the rule of law. In Oklahoma, there are particular sets of rules that govern the distribution of your estate after your death. These rules are referred to as the laws of INTESTATE SUCCESSION. Simply put, if you die without a will in Oklahoma, you are considered to have died “intestate,” and the management of your estate will be decided according to Oklahoma’s intestacy laws. To avoid this situation, consult an experienced family law attorney to assist you in the protection of your posthumous estate.
However, not all of your assets will be distributed according to intestate succession laws. Typically, intestate succession laws will affect only assets that you own outright and in your own name. Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, property you own with others and assets for which a beneficiary has already been named will be exempt.
In addition, who gets what through intestate succession laws will depend on a number of different factors, such as whether or not you are married, have children, parents and/or close relatives. For example, if you die without a will and you have a spouse and children, your wife will get a portion of your estate and your children will get a portion. If you have children but no spouse, your children will receive all of your estate. This method of distribution is applied to your estate with regard to the number and type of living relatives you have remaining at your demise.
Spouses: What your spouse receives depends on whether or not you have children, grandchildren or parents. If so, your spouse will share your estate with them according to intestate succession rules. If not, your spouse will inherit all of your estate alone.
Children: How much your children receive depends on how many children you have and whether or not you are married. This amount will be decided according to intestate succession laws and in proportion to the number of children you have and the amount to which your spouse is entitled, if applicable. However, in order for your children to inherit from you through intestate succession, they must be your legal children, through birth or legal adoption. Consult an Oklahoma family law attorney about how to arrange for the affairs of your children after your death.
What if I Have No Relatives?
In very rare cases, if you die without a will and have no living relatives, your property will revert (escheat) back to the state. Estate planning laws are designed to distribute your property to anyone remotely related to you if a relationship can be established. So, even the siblings of a deceased spouse would be entitled to inherit your property before it would revert back to the state.
Free Consultation: Oklahoma City Family Law Attorney
Divorce Law Office of Oklahoma City offers initial consultations at no cost. Our knowledgeable Oklahoma City family law attorney can advise you on how best to prepare your will. For a free consultation, call (405) 880-8222 today. If you prefer to reach out to us by e-mail, send your question using the “Ask the Lawyer” form at the right side of this page