Probate Process In Oklahoma – Everything You Should Know
The death of a loved one could be such a painful thing to bear and it is something we all must face at some point in our lives. As if that trauma is not enough, you’ll still have to go through some legal processes. Legal terms and processes like probate could appear frightening and unfamiliar to most people. It is therefore important that everyone gets to understand what probate is all about so you can be prepared for it to both reduce the strain and emotional stress when you finally face the probate process in Oklahoma.
What is Probate?
The probate is a legal process through which the assets of a deceased person are distributed as laid out in the estate plan. It doesn’t matter if the deceased has written their will; the court would still have to determine if the will is valid. Part of the process also involves making sure that all debts and taxes owed by the deceased get paid. In cases where the deceased person died intestate, a situation wherein they left no will, their estate would still have to go through probate in which the judge will then appoint a personal representative to fill the shoes for an executor. So, in essence, the probate is simply a legal process through which the will of a deceased person gets validated, claims in form of credit and taxes get paid, while the deceased remaining assets are distributed to the surviving heirs or beneficiaries.
Why do estates have to go through probate?
The main purpose and importance of probate is to prevent fraud. The estate of the deceased is frozen till certain conditions have been met. First, the court would have to decide whether the will is valid. All relevant people and parties would also need to be informed. All of the property in the estate would be identified and appraised, and creditors, as well as taxes, would need to be paid. As soon as all of the conditions have been satisfied, the court would then issue an order to distribute the property to the heirs. It would interest you that not every estate would have to go through probate though. If the estate in question falls below a certain limit in which case it is considered a ‘’small estate’’, it would not really need a court supervision to be settled. Additionally, some assets get automatically transferred after the death of an owner and so won’t have to go through the probate process.
Assets exempted from probate
The following types of assets do not have to pass through the probate process before they get settled;
- Joint tenancy assets get automatically transferred to the surviving tenant in the event that one of them dies, without the need for probate or a court order
- Community property with right of survivorship or tenancy by entirety follows the same procedure like joint tenancy
- Beneficiary designations such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies get transferred to the named beneficiaries
- Payable on Death Accounts or Transfer on Death Accounts would often have designated beneficiaries who automatically becomes the owner of the account assets upon the death of the original owner
It’s possible the deceased may have also created a Living Trust where their largest assets are held. Such estates too are exempted from going through the probate process unless the other assets outside the trust exceed Oklahoma’s small estate limit. When the estate of a deceased person in Oklahoma exceeds the small estate and are not held in a Living Trust regardless of whether or not there is a will, such estate would have to go through probate before the assets are distributed to the surviving heirs.
Understanding the probate process In Oklahoma City.
The process would usually begin with the filling of the will in the district court where the deceased was resident before their death
This will then be followed by a petition for probate and the appointment of an executor. In the absence of a will, the judge would appoint a personal representative. Such executors or personal representatives are then issued ‘’Letters Testamentary’’ giving them the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.
A notice of probate would then be published in a local newspaper in the neighborhood of the deceased. Creditors have a 2 month period during this time wherein they can make claims.
The executor would also have to file an inventory of the deceased’s assets before the court within two months of their appointment.
This will then be followed by a petition to close the probate once all of the taxes and creditors have been settled. Once done, the court would then issue an order allowing the distribution of the estate’s remaining properties to the heirs.
Although the executor is entitled to receive certain fees for their services, these are subjected to income tax and many executors would often forgo the fees.
Assets are either distributed to beneficiaries according to the will or determined according to Oklahoma intestate laws in the absence of a will. The process of administering an estate is lengthy and could take anywhere from six to 12 months. As lengthy and inevitable as it seems, there are a few things that would greatly help to reduce the probate time for your estate. First among these is drafting a clear will before your demise. This will significantly reduce the amount of time your estate spends while in probate as it would make your wishes vividly clear before the court. Another approach to working around this is by placing your assets into trusts. In this case, you’ll be completely avoiding the probate process. One of the most difficult processes involved in estate administration is the real estate aspect. To better protect your loved ones, you may need to engage the service of a qualified attorney to help you draw up a valid will. This way, you’d be able to reduce the amount of time your estate would have to spend in probate in the absence of a will.
If you have any other questions regarding the probate process in Oklahoma please give us a call at 405-288-1996 – our in house attorney will gladly help you and your family free of charge.