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Wills

What Happens if You Die Without A Will?

If you die intestate (without a will), your state's laws of descent and distribution will determine who receives your property by default. These laws vary from state to state, but typically the distribution would be to your spouse and children, or if none, to other family members. A state's plan often reflects the legislature's guess as to how most people would dispose of their estates and builds in protections for certain beneficiaries, particularly minor children. That plan may or may not reflect your actual wishes, and some of the built-in protections may not be necessary in a harmonious family setting. A will allows you to alter the state's default plan to suit your personal preferences.

In addition, in the absence of a will, a court will determine who will care for your young children and their property if the other parent is unavailable or unfit to do so.

If you are part of an unmarried same-sex couple, your surviving partner will not inherit anything unless you live in one of the few states that allows registered domestic partners to inherit like spouses and Oklahoma is not one of them.

When a Basic Will Is Enough

By and large, if you are under age 50 and don't expect to leave assets valuable enough to be subject to estate taxes, you can probably get by with only a basic will. But as you grow older and acquire more property, you may want to engage in more sophisticated planning -- we go into these details during an office consultation.

Will a Basic Will Avoid Probate?

No. If you leave anything more than a small amount of property through a will, probate court proceedings will probably be necessary after your death. Although it varies from state to state, probate can take six months or a year and eat up three to five percent of your estate in lawyers' and court fees. And your beneficiaries will probably get little or nothing until probate is complete.