10th Sep 2018

If you die without a will (or a trust or other estate planning) like Aretha Franklin, one main consequence is that you will not ultimately control who your property passes to at death.

An estate plan consisting of a will or trust, in coordination with beneficiary designations, deeds/title, and other planning, can allow you to control who your property passes to at death. If you do not have an estate plan in Oklahoma, your property will generally be distributed by the intestacy laws of the State of Oklahoma.


Intestacy basically means there was no last will and testament (emphasis added to show the similarities in the words).  The practical result of intestacy is that if you die without an estate plan, the government has one for you.

That does not mean the intestacy laws are always a terrible solution. Often people contact my office and fear that a decedent or beneficiary may somehow forfeit property or encounter some other horrible consequence if there is no will.  This is not always the case.  The situation can often be helped if those left behind are cooperative, as some commentators have indicated Aretha Franklin’s children may be.

Some Limits

However, intestacy does have some limits, and below are a few things that can be problematic about intestacy:

– A common surprise of a surviving spouse is that under Oklahoma law they will not inherit all the property of their spouse if the spouse has children.  This can lead to a number of issues from family tension to minor child considerations.

– The planner cannot give to a cause, school, medical facility, church, civic group, or other institution or charity that was important to them.

– Someone may end up receiving part of the estate, and the decedent did not know it would happen, or worse, did not wish them to receive anything.

– The planner cannot designate someone else to manage property and investments for a child or other beneficiary who has an addiction problem, struggles with physical or mental challenges, is a minor / under age, or might otherwise benefit from the help of a trust or similar arrangement.

– There is no chance for estate tax or other tax planning. This is not as common of a problem anymore, but when it is an issue, it can be a huge issue.  This may be a problem for Aretha Franklin’s estate, according to reports.

– There is no chance for ongoing or legacy planning like business succession planning or management of key assets. This may be one of the most important issues in Aretha Franklin’s estate – figuring out the ongoing management, rights, and responsibilities related to the music.

This is not a comprehensive list, but hopefully it is helpful in illustrating the main point of the post: if you die without a will, you will not ultimately control who your property passes to at death.

If our office may be of assistance to you in these areas, do not hesitate to contact us at (580) 338-6503 or at coryhicks@fieldandhicks.com or using any of our contact information in the profile.  You can also visit www.fieldandhicks.com for more information.

This blog contains general information and the opinions of the author – not legal advice; you should seek the advice of competent counsel (attorney/lawyer) when considering any legal issues.

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