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What if I die without a proper estate plan?

Oklahoma residents may view estate planning as an activity better suited to later in life, but the reality is that anyone over the age of 18 should consider establishing a plan regardless of assets. An estate plan that is legally documented is important for clearly communicating one's wishes. Assuming that a small estate does not warrant a formal plan is one of the most serious errors that can be made. Similarly, presuming that only the wealthy need to worry about such issues is incorrect.

Today's assets may include obscure properties or products that should be considered in an estate plan. Digital assets are becoming more significant as people store important photos, music, books, and movies online. Additionally, pets may require consideration as an individual establishes wishes related to an estate. Issues such as guardianship for children should also be included in an estate plan. Waiting until one becomes incapacitated may prevent the expression of personal wishes related to these and many more concerns.

Because some assets may provide for transfer without a will, an individual may presume that an estate plan isn't necessary. However, a beneficiary of an account may not necessarily follow one's wishes without a plan that directs for how a resource is to be used. This may be of interest if an older child is meant to distribute the remnants of a joint account among other siblings, and expression of these intentions in a legal estate plan may ensure that an individual is accountable for following one's wishes.

An individual who is unsure of how to create an estate plan may find the services of an attorney to be helpful. In addition to discussing the assets and issues that should be covered in a plan, the attorney may ensure that the plan is properly documented to ensure that it meets appropriate standards upon one's death.

Source: Forbes, "7 Common Estate-Planning Blunders Not To Make", Sheryl Nance-Nash, September 15, 2014

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