Many Oklahoma residents with property decide at some point to make sure it will pass to their heirs when they die. This can be something as simple as a coin collection, antique automobile or something far grander, such as real estate holdings and investment portfolios. Regardless of the size of their estate, many people bump up against a fundamental question: Which one offers better protection for my assets and property -- a will or a trust?
What are the advantages of a will? A will is your written instruction about the disposal of your property when you die. Wills in Oklahoma only require their makers to be "of sound mind" and at least 18-years-old. A will gives you final say on where your property or assets go and keeps them out of the probate court system, where a judge would follow state law and distribute your assets accordingly. Your relatives might get them, but there are no guarantees. A will also allows you to choose a personal representative to execute your will. You are not required to take further action after signing a will, although reviewing one periodically is highly recommended.
What are the advantages of a trust? A trust is generally more difficult to set up, but it offers you the main advantages of a will and the possibility of income to a beneficiary while you are still alive. A trust requires ongoing maintenance as you acquire or dispose of property and assets. Anything not covered in a trust's provisions could end up in probate.
Are there alternatives to wills and trusts? In Oklahoma, several alternatives are available, including a Transfer on Death deed that allows you to retain full ownership of real property while you are alive but gives it to your beneficiary when you die.