Sarah Stewart Legal Group, PLLC

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Month: September 2017

How to Avoid Probate on Real Property without a Trust

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Many people believe having a Will allows their heirs to avoid probate.  But, this is simply not true.  If a person has a Will, the heirs have to go to court to distribute the assets of the deceased.  The Will provides instructions to the Court for how those assets will be divided.

Though having a Will gives you control of who gets what when you die, it does not stop your heirs from having to endure the costs and stress associated with the court process of probate.

If you’re looking to reduce your heirs’ stress, and keep them out of Court, the most common estate planning tactic is a Trust.  However, if you are opposed to a trust for any reason, there are other probate avoidance options.

Probate Avoidance on Non-Real Estate Assets

Most people are aware of the options for probate avoidance for personal, non real estate, assets. Those options include, for bank accounts, naming payable on death beneficiaries and joint owners.  For stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, you can name beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries.

In Oklahoma, you also have the option to sign and file a Transfer on Death Deed to allow your heirs to transfer your real property after your death by filing Affidavits and a Death Certificate with the County Clerk where the property is held.

Owner can Sell or Transfer without Permission of the Beneficiaries

A Transfer on Death Deed allows the owner to keep ownership of the property until the day he or she dies.  That means he or she can sell, lease, or doing anything else he or she wishes with the property without the consent of the Transfer on Death Deed beneficiaries. TOD Deeds also allow the owner to change his or her mind and choose new beneficiaries as he or she needs throughout his or her life.

In this respect, Transfer on Death Deeds are better than joint ownership, because if you need to sell the property or otherwise change your mind about ownership, as a joint owner, every owner has to consent to and sign off on the change.

Avoid Probate and Smooth Transfer

As discussed before, the property will transfer as soon as your heirs file their Affidavits and Death Certificate with the County Clerk.  There is no need to probate the estate, and no delay in the transfer of property.  The transfer is complete the day the Affidavits and Death Certificate are filed and your heirs can agree to do what they wish with the property.

TOD Deeds are one tool in a large toolbox available to you for estate planning purposes.  Everyone needs a unique and personalized plan that fits their needs and helps them reach their goals.  Please reach out to a professional to help you fully plan your estate.



How to Plan for Your Digital Assets

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

What happens to your digital assets after your death?  Who takes care of your social media accounts, email, and online savings and checking accounts? What happens to those accounts when you die? Do they continue on inevitably, or can they be closed?

Though a large amount of estate planning still takes place with paper documents, digital assets are extremely common and must be addressed as well. Digital estate plans help determine if your digital assets have any monetary value and helps your loved ones know what you have and where.

(1) Inventory

To make a plan, you have to know what you have.  Compile a list of all the online assets you have and their usernames and passwords, including but not limited to:

  • Social media accounts
  • email accounts
  • websites
  • online insurance, bank, and credit card accounts
  • online bill pay
  • media files
  • online payment tools (Google Wallet, PayPal, etc.)

(2) Proper Storage of Your Inventory

Your inventory will have a lot of important, personal information.  You need to make sure you protect it. You can store the inventory in a safety deposit box at a bank, with an attorney, or in a safe. You may also consider online applications that were created solely for digital asset planning purposes, such as PasswordBox or SecureSafe.

(3) Name an Executor

Much like traditional estate planning, you will need to choose someone to manage your online accounts and assets. Make sure you choice is trustworthy, technologically savvy, and responsible. Give your Digital Executor information on where to find your inventory.

(4) Write Your Plan

What do you want your Executor to do with your digital assets? As with any estate plan, make sure your instructions are clear, to avoid confusion. Add a list of instructions for each digital asset you own.

(5) Pay Attention to Terms and Conditions

Review the terms and conditions for the places that hold your digital assets.  Each site may have different rules and procedures for handling assets of members after death. For instance, Facebook will allow you to close or “memorialize” an account.  Google has an “Inactive Account Manager” that allows users to decide what they want to happen to their accounts when they have been inactive for a predetermined amount of time. And Twitter requires more paperwork and redtape for families to access their loved ones’ accounts.

As our world becomes more and more digital, digital estate planning will continue to grow.  As you join new sites and amass more digital assets, be sure to update your plan so you don’t get so far behind you can’t catch up.

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