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Making decisions during estate planning

Oklahoma residents may know that estate planning is an important part of planning for the future. Making sure one's beneficiaries receive their legacy in a cost-effective direct way allows a benefactor to have peace of mind. The type of estate planning tools one uses is an important consideration. Assets that do not require a will or trust include insurance policies and retirement plans since they have beneficiaries named in the document. For other assets, there are two main ways to transfer wealth to beneficiaries.

The most basic is the simple will, which outlines who will receive tangible items. An executor files the will in probate court, and the courts charge a fee for its execution. The fee's amount varies depending on the estate size. This process may take several months to complete, and the will becomes a part of the public record.

The other alternative is revocable trusts. This is a living document and may be changed over time. A successor trustee is empowered to handle the trust upon the owner's incapacitation. Unlike a will, there is no fee or delay in the execution of the terms of the trust; assets are passed directly to beneficiaries privately. Once a revocable trust is formed, it is necessary for assets to be placed in the trust's name. The owner, who is acting as a trustee, directly controls the assets. However, moving assets also does not change how the original trustee pays income tax.

Many times, a will and a trust are used together, and an attorney may provide insight into what might work for a client. Some estate plans are more complex than others are, and an attorney may assist in structuring an appropriate plan for an individual's needs. Also, as life changes occur, the attorney may assist the owner to keep the documents updated.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Death Deal: Will or Revocable Living Trust?", Terry Savage , September 22, 2014

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