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Are wills still valid estate planning tools?

When considering their estate planning options, Oklahoma residents have a wide variety of available choices. Gone are the days when the primary choice was between a simple will or a set of trusts. Today, families can make use of a number of tools to pass on wealth to the chosen recipients. As such, some feel that wills no longer play a valid role within the estate planning process. This, however, may be a false assumption.

It is true that there are a great many options in regard to handing down wealth. Some families are drawn to gifting, which allows individuals the opportunity to give loved ones a share of their inheritance while the original owner is still alive. In this way, people are able to watch their family members make use of that wealth, while also reducing the value of their taxable estate.

Others rely on transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts to distribute an inheritance while avoiding probate. Many states are working to expand the types of accounts that can make use of TOD designations. Examples of accounts that can be managed in this way include bank accounts, land deeds and even vehicle registrations.

Still, others look to life insurance as a means of leaving loved ones an inheritance. Joint ownership is yet another option, as are various forms of trusts. Regardless of the blend of tools that a family makes use of, there is almost always a need for a properly drafted will.

Wills provide a central document to list all assets and the manner in which they are to be distributed. This can make it easier for families to rest assured that all accumulated assets have been included, and that nothing has been left out of the estate planning process. In addition, many Oklahoma families are comforted by the long legal history of interpretation that wills have within the American court system, and want to include a will as the central component of a larger estate plan.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Are Wills Obsolete?", Brad Reid, Sept. 9, 2015

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