What is the Purpose of a Will?
The purpose of a will is to allow you to decide what happens to your money, home, and other property after you pass away. Another purpose is to stop your family from fighting over your possessions once you are gone. Having a will that disposes of your property gives you peace of mind knowing that your family will be taken care of once you die, and gives your family some measure of relief knowing that you already planned for this eventuality and that you aren’t leaving them to figure everything out on their own.
What is Included in my Will?
Your will includes instructions for leaving behind all of your personal property, any real estate that you might own, and any money that you have, including stocks or other investments. You may have named a beneficiary of some investments (like retirement plans or life insurance) when you made the investments, but some things will need to be taken care of by your will.
You can leave your property in your will to any person or entity that you want, including family and friends, churches and charities – even strangers. You can even leave property to your pet or pets. You don’t have to leave property to your children or grandchildren, but if you do not, your will needs to be very specific in order to avoid having someone fight in Court over your estate.
It is imperative that you have an estate planning attorney look over all of your retirement and other plan information, as well as review your bank accounts, car titles, and deeds to your property in order to be sure that everything is disposed of and left to someone in your will, and to be sure that your will is drafted in a way that will avoid disputes once you are gone. The last thing any of us wants is to think about our family fighting over our property, and having an estate planning attorney go over your property with you and draft your will is the best way to ensure that you spare your family that hardship.
What is a Living will?
The term “living will” refers to a number of different medical documents and authorizations. These documents include “Do Not Resuscitate” forms, which instruct medical providers when it is all right to let you die without heroic medical interventions after a catastrophic accident or illness, and “Advanced Directives for Medical Care” which include your instructions in the event that you need life support or other life-sustaining treatment. You may also include the election of a proxy for health care, which means that you choose one family member or other person that you trust to make all medical treatment decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself due to illness or injury.
We know it can be frightening to think about what happens if you are in an accident or gravely ill, but having your wishes written down and known takes a lot of pressure off your family and friends in a time of emergency. Having the appropriate legal documents prepared in advance ensures that you will be treated with dignity and according to your wishes at the end of your life. It ensures your peace of mind and ensures that your family won’t be stuck trying to decide “what she would want” in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself about medical decisions.
What should I do to prepare for an appointment to create my will?
Once you retain our firm, we will set an appointment for you to meet with us at our office. You will need to bring legal documents relating to your properties: deeds or titles to real estate or vehicles, account numbers for bank accounts or retirement accounts, life insurance or other insurance policy numbers, and lists of other personal property that you want included in your will. If you have any mineral rights or other valuable assets, we will need the documents with the account numbers on them so that we can include those in your will.
You will also need to know who you want to designate as your beneficiaries. In Oklahoma, your children and spouse are presumed to be your heirs, but they do not have to be, and we can walk you through how to name other beneficiaries if that is what you want to do. You will also need to name an executor for your estate, and an alternate in case that person isn’t able to act as your executor.
Finally, bring any copies you have of any past wills that you have. That way, we can use your past documents to draft your present documents, and make only the changes that you want to the language that is already in place.
If you are creating a “living will,” then we will go over the forms with you and explain the different treatment options available in the Do Not Resuscitate and Advance Directive documents.
What are the Steps to Creating my will?
The first step is for us to meet with you, and go over any old will that you have and any changes that you want made. At this time, we will also review with you all of the titles and legal documents for your property and all of your account numbers and other information that you bring to us. We’ll go over your list of personal property to be left to your heirs, and explain to you how to designate whatever beneficiaries you wish. We’ll also go over your “living will” and make note of your preferences.
After you leave our office, we will draft a will and send it to you by e-mail so that you can review it at home. Once we have made all of the revisions that need to be made, and you are satisfied with your will, we will meet with you and your witnesses and a Notary Public to have your will executed. You will need two adults to witness your will, and they cannot be people that you leave anything to in your will. There will be multiple copies for you to sign and have notarized and witnessed. Once your will is signed, we will keep a copy in your file at our office, and give the other copies to you. You should keep a copy in a safe place, and let your family know where it is.
Why should I hire your firm?
We have over thirty years’ experience drafting wills, as well as contesting and litigating wills that other lawyers drafted. We know where the weaknesses are in wills and other estate plans and know how to avoid those weaknesses so that your will is not contested and is followed after you pass away.