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Carefully planned estates may bypass probate administration

Waiting to plan for the future is a mistake many people in Oklahoma make. In fact, it is a common complaint of financial advisors that most people reach the end of their lives without a plan for their long-term care or the distribution of their assets. Because of this, people leave no choice but for others to make serious decisions for them, whether it is bereaved family members or through probate administration.

Careful estate planning ensures that one's desires will be carried out. Any transfer of property after one's death must be done within the law, and the law requires the transfer to be detailed in a will or trust. A will or trust can be used for more than distributing certain pieces of property when one dies. Both can provide long-term security for beneficiaries under many complex circumstances. Estate planning attorneys help people determine which planning tools best fit specific situations.

Another benefit of estate planning is sparing one's beneficiaries the time and cost of probate and potentially burdensome estate taxes. Probate fees can run into thousands of dollars, and assets typically are not distributed until the proceedings are completed. Establishing a trust is the best way to bypass probate. The fees are substantially lower, and -- if the trust has been well maintained and there are no disputes -- trusts can be administered quickly. Trusts can also protect one's estate from taxes that can substantially deplete assets.

The only way to be certain one's final wishes will be carried out is to provide legal instructions for those left behind. Simply telling someone how to distribute one's property will not protect his or her heirs from disagreements and false claims that may ultimately lead to costly probate administration. In Oklahoma, many find that an estate planning attorney can help them find the best ways to protect their heirs and ensure that their wishes are carried out when they are no longer able to tend to matters themselves.

Source:, "What You Need to Know About Estate Planning", Chris Jones, Oct. 23, 2016

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