What happens when someone who is not an Oklahoma resident owns property physically located in Oklahoma at the time of their death? Oklahoma law allows non-Oklahomans, or persons who were residents of any other state at the time of their passing, to have their Oklahoma-based property handled quickly and efficiently once their domiciliary (home) state begins a probate. This is called an ancillary probate, since the Oklahoma probate case is ancillary or secondary to the primary probate case in the home state. 

Who is eligible for ancillary probate in Oklahoma?

Ancillary probate only applies to non-residents. For what to do after the death of an Oklahoma resident, see our article on the normal probate process in Oklahoma, which applies to all Oklahomans and residents of the state. You may also want to read our article on the summary probate or summary administration of a probate in Oklahoma, which applies to Oklahomans and residents of the state with a total estate value of less than $200,000. 

How does ancillary probate work? 

An ancillary probate action is a type of probate lawsuit by which the court can help determine who should own Oklahoma property left behind when a non-resident dies. The lawsuit is filed in a county court in the county where the deceased person owned property. Usually, paperwork is the biggest hurdle to completing an ancillary probate action. However, there will usually be one in-person hearing where the judge will allow interest parties and creditors to appear and state their objections or claims against the property or it’s deceased owner. After all objections and claims are addressed, the judge will sign a court order which usually transfers title to the property to a new owner, which may be a spouse, heir, or beneficiary of the deceased person. 

What is required to file? 

The normal ancillary probate process requires the court in the deceased person’s home state to have already admitted the will to probate in that home state before starting in Oklahoma. This means the personal representative, administrator, or other person in charge of handling the estate has already (1) filed a probate action, (2) admitted the will to probate, and (3) has determined that the deceased person owned property in the state of Oklahoma. Only after these steps have been completed will the Oklahoma court allow an ancillary probate case to continue. 

When should an ancillary probate case be filed? 

Fortunately, Oklahoma law does not require any delay in filing an ancillary probate case. Ancillary probate cases can be filed as soon as the home state probate has been started and the will has been admitted to probate in the home state.

Often times, ancillary probate may be required to fix a simple title issue for a single property that would otherwise be trapped in the name of the deceased.

What if no ancillary probate is ever started, or if it is never completed? 

The typical process for resolving historic ownership or title issues then becomes relevant. This process is called a quiet title action, or quiet title lawsuit. A quiet title involves a lawsuit file a legal action in the county court where the property is located, which asks the court to confirm ownership of some property or asset. See our full article on quiet titles in Oklahoma, an attorney’s guide to quiet title actions in Oklahoma.

Quiet title actions are a good tool for owners of property which has issues in the chain of title, or where a portion of the ownership of property is unknown or uncertain. These issues often cause title to property to become “clouded title”, or simply not as clear as it should be. When there is a cloud on title to some property, most title companies will view that property’s title as unmarketable and therefore uninsurable. 

Quiet title actions become necessary, and can become very complicated, if multiple years, decades, or generations pass before title to Oklahoma property is corrected. 

Can I avoid probate in Oklahoma?

Yes! There are multiple methods and strategies for avoiding probate altogether when it comes to Oklahoma-based assets. Most of these methods can be used for residents and non-residents alike. Asset protection and probate avoidance are key considerations in every one of our estate plans. If this is important to you or your loved ones, see our article on how to avoid probate in Oklahoma.

Contact Avenue Legal Group to discuss the possible need for an ancillary probate action, probate avoidance and asset protection options, or to obtain pricing on probate services, including ancillary probates. 



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