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Does my Oklahoma will let me distribute property as I see fit?

Numerous rules exist in Oklahoma for how estates are handled, and things such as prenuptial agreements can be involved. If a person dies without a will and no other legal issues are involved, some general asset distribution rules apply. A surviving spouse will take half of the estate and surviving children take the other half in an equal split.

For someone with no surviving children, the estate is split half to the spouse and half to surviving parents. Single individuals with surviving children pass their entire estate on to children, and other laws govern how estates without wills are distributed to other heirs should surviving parents, children and spouses not be applicable.

Individuals who leave no will and have minor children may leave considerable legal difficulties for a surviving spouse or other relative. To use the children's half of an estate to support health or education for the children, for example, the surviving spouse would have to seek legal guardianship and make an annual financial accounting to the court. A will can reduce some of these requirements.

In Oklahoma, however, a will doesn't let you distribute property 100 percent as you see fit if your wishes go against some general rules. A surviving spouse cannot be 100 percent excluded from inheritance, for example. Even if a will distributes property to other people and never mentions the spouse, the spouse can elect to take a lawful portion of the estate.

When children or grandchildren are not named in a will, they may also have rights to an estate portion under the law. Understanding how the law impacts estate administration can help you structure a will in a way that best meets your wishes for asset distribution.

Source: Oklahoma State Bar, "Do You Need a Will or Trust?" Aug. 29, 2014

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