Guide to Probate in Oklahoma
Having to probate a loved one’s estate can be a stressful feeling if you don’t know where to turn or what to do. Avenue Legal Group can help with any and all stages of probate in every county in Oklahoma. This article will provide some key information about probate in Oklahoma.
What is the first step after a loved one dies? Gather documents and information. You should obtain a death certificate from the funeral director, collect any estate planning and financial documents (wills, trusts, amendments, codicils, prenups, etc.), collect ownership documents (deeds, certificates of title for cars or boats, etc.), and contact a probate attorney.
Is a probate necessary? The need for a probate action depends upon the type of property owned by the deceased individual and the way in which they held their ownership interests in that property. Some assets avoid probate entirely, which is commonly called “exempt” property or assets. Any property which must be probated is included in the “probate estate” of the deceased.
What if you have a will? Probate actions can still be necessary even if you have a will. Oklahoma probate courts generally have two types of probates: probate of a will (the deceased person had a will but not all of their assets were exempt from probate procedures), and probate of an intestate estate (the deceased person died without a will, so almost all of their assets will be subject to probate procedures).
Who files a probate action? Oklahoma law allows any person who has an interest in the estate (property) of a deceased person to start the probate action in Oklahoma courts. However, the executor, personal representative, trustee, or other specifically designated individual is usually the petitioner in probate actions; for more information about who can and should serve in one of these roles, see our article on trustees, estate administrators, executors, and personal representative in Oklahoma.
Where is the probate action filed? The probate case must be filed in the county where the deceased person lived at the time of their death, or the county where they owned property.
Is there a deadline for filing a probate action in Oklahoma? Oklahoma law requires a custodian of a will (someone in possession of a will) to provide the document to the county court and executor named in the will within 30 days of the death of the maker of the will. There is no deadline for when a will must be submitted to probate; however, there can be difficult consequences if a will is not probated within one year of the passing of the maker of the will. Any delay in filing the probate action has the potential to cause compounding issues due to additional interested parties passing away, or the inevitable unavailability of crucial documents and information.
Are there different kinds of probate actions in Oklahoma? There are different levels of probate in Oklahoma, which vary by size of the probate estate. Smaller estates may be filed as a summary probate action, which has expedited timelines and usually only concerns small amounts of cash and personal property; see our article on summary probate in Oklahoma for more information. An ancillary probate action may be required for individuals who were not Oklahoma residents who owned property in Oklahoma at their time of death; see our article on ancillary probate in Oklahoma for more information. Ancillary probates are very common for non-residents who owned oil, gas, and mineral interests in Oklahoma at the time of passing. All other probate actions will likely follow standard probate procedures.
How long does probate take in Oklahoma? Each type of probate case discussed above has different timelines and procedural requirements. Small estates in summary or ancillary probate may only require 60-90 days, while regular probates can take many months (or longer if the heirs have disputes). Probate actions are not complete until all assets have been distributed and the executor, administrator, or personal representative responsible for the estate has been formally discharged (released of further obligations) by the court. For complicated estates which did not have much estate planning, probate cases can last more than a year.
What happens if no probate is ever filed or completed? For cash and cash equivalents: money sitting in financial accounts can be distributed to the Oklahoma State Treasurer for safekeeping if it is never claimed, but the heirs and beneficiaries of the deceased individual may be required to obtain a court order for distribution of funds. For property: a court order may also be required for the heirs to prove ownership of any real estate held by the deceased individual; if no probate is ever completed, a quiet title action may become necessary to prove ownership. See our guide to quiet title actions in Oklahoma. The benefit of probate is that these orders can be obtained quickly and effectively, and money and property of the deceased can be distributed to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries.
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 a probate action, probate avoidance and asset protection options, or to obtain pricing on probate services, including summary and ancillary probates in all counties across Oklahoma.
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