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Probate administration follows deceased's wishes if a will exists

Many may have a fictionalized idea of the importance of estate planning. After watching movies about rich and powerful parents threatening to write their children out of their wills or spoiled college students pouting about the limits on their trust funds, people in Oklahoma may conclude that estate planning is only for the wealthy. In fact, anyone who owns property or other assets would benefit from creating a will because they may save their heirs many common frustrations associated with probate administration.

Without a will, a deceased person's property typically goes to a surviving spouse. In fact, even if a person writes a will that excludes the spouse, the spouse may legally claim part of the estate. Aside from that, if the deceased made no plans for the estate, the property is managed according to the intestate laws of the state. These are uniform laws that treat each intestate estate equally, following a hierarchy of heirs.

Generally, intestate property is divided among a surviving spouse and children, with the spouse receiving a determined portion and the children dividing the rest. Obviously, if there is no spouse, the children divide the assets equally. In cases where no immediate family exists, the estate may then be divided among parents and siblings, or even more distant relatives. If no relatives can be identified, the state inherits the property. In intestate law, there are no allowances for close friends or charities unless someone creates a will to designate assets to these entities.

Probate administration can be a long, frustrating process, especially for an estate without a will. Heirs often must take time off work to deal with the complicated legal issues that arise when their loved one dies without an estate plan. To help them through this process, many people find the assistance and guidance of an estate planning attorney is invaluable. Having a legal advocate with experience in Oklahoma estate issues may make the ordeal less stressful.

Source: moneycrashers.com, "Intestacy Rules & Laws: What Happens When Dying Without a Will", Mark Theoharis, Accessed on April 1, 2017

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