Wills, Trusts, & Probates.
The passing of a spouse, parent, or grandparent often causes tragic family disputes – even in close-knit families having no prior history of internal conflict or animosity. Such a passing can also present a web of difficult decisions and stressful responsibilities- at exactly the moment the family is at its weakest, intellectually and emotionally. We at Carrigan Law understand these challenges and work diligently to help families arrange their final affairs in a respectful, thoughtful manner, with a focus on minimizing opportunity for familial conflict. The primary tools for implementing an individuals estate planning goals are Wills and Trusts. A carefully drafted Trust can assure that an individual’s intentions regarding the distribution of his or her property be honored and respected manner, which leaves less opportunity for destructive and expensive family disputes.
Executing a valid and effective Will.
A Will is a written instrument giving directions on how to transfer an individual’s real and person property after his or her passing, as well as giving guidance and comfort to the family as the individual’s final wishes. A holigraphic or hand-written Will is enforceable under Oklahoma law, assuming the individual has a sound mind, clearly identifies his or her heirs, and signs and dates the Will. However, a holigraphic Will may not necessarily fully address all of the individual’s wishes and practical needs, leaving opportunity for needless family disputes. We assist clients in all walks of life to properly draft the appropriate Will (or Trust) to suit the needs and expectations of the client. Once executed, your Will remains your final statement of your intentions until you amend or revoke it. We recommend reviewing your Will every three to five years and updating it to reflect your current wishes.
Legally, a Will serves as instructions to a Court as to whom is authorized to act (Executor) and instructions on how to transfer the decedent’s property and assets to the named heirs or devisees. By its nature, a Will requires the filing of a court action or probate. Upon filing of the probate, the Court decides if the Will is validly executed, who are the proper devisees to receive property, and supervises the Executor’s actions, requiring accounting of the funds, etc.
Under Oklahoma law, we have varying avenues to purse the probate of a decedent’s Will. But in general, probates include the following steps:
- Filing the will with the appropriate county Court;
- Developing the best strategy for fairly and expeditiously settling the estate;
- Finding and assembling assets – reporting the same to the Court;
- Pay creditors and claimants;
- Collecting amounts owed the estate;
- Closing and opening bank accounts;
- Transferring assets from the deceased to the heirs;
- Paying current and delinquent taxes as well as estate taxes;
- Valuing, managing, preserving and liquidating the estate; and,
- Locating beneficiaries.
Typically, an Executor is a spouse or adult child charged with wrapping up the decedent’s final affairs. Probate can be simple if handled properly. We work diligently to walk family members carefully through each step of the process in the hopefully the most expedient and stress-free manner.
Testamentary Trusts and Intervivos Trusts.
Most clients are aware that a properly executed Trust can completely eliminate the need for probate or court to administer our affairs. A Trust is a written document creating a legal entity, much like a corporation, that can own property, sell property, hire accountants, and, in general manage our affairs. To run the affairs of this Trust entity, the client appoints a “Trustee”, much like a CEO, to manage the practical aspects of the client’s affairs for the benefit of the client and or other family members. Trusts can be effective during an individual’s lifetime called an Intervivos Trust or effective upon death, called a Testamentary Trust. A properly executed Trust can also guarantee that a family has the resources and tools to manage an incapacitated family member without having to resort to a guardianship. During his or her lifetime, a client can name themselves as Trustee, thereby maintaining full control over their affairs, or alternatively, name a third-party, or even a bank or lawyer as Trustee. Revocable Intervivos Trusts allow for the client to change their mind and completely revoke the terms of the Trust. Revocable Trusts provide little or no protection of family assets in case of later financial distress. Other types of Trust can be drafted if asset protection is a concern for the client.
We pride ourselves on working patiently and carefully with our clients to develop the most cost-effective and appropriate Trust for your families needs.
Other Estate Planning Tools.
While some clients require complex estate planning, others may only need a Transfer Upon Death Deed, or a real estate deed adding the adult children to the title on a family home, or perhaps, just a Durable Power of Attorney or a Medical Power of Attorney. Whatever your needs, we are here to find the right estate planning tool for you and your family