One of the most fundamental decisions in estate planning is deciding who will take care of your affairs once you are unable to do so yourself, either through death or incapacity. The following information is a general guide for items to consider when deciding who you should nominate as your trustee, estate administrator, executor, or personal representative. 

Trustee Options in Oklahoma:

  • Settlor, or trust maker, serves as their own trustee(s)
  • Trusted friend or family member that is at least 18 years old
  • Professional trustee, also known as a corporate trustee

Oklahoma requirements for serving as a personal representative (PR) or executor: 

  • Be at least 18 years old 
  • Must not be a felon (includes felony DUI convictions)
  • Must be not be adjudicated to be incompetent
  • The named executor must make a proper filing in the proper court within 30 days of learning of the principal’s death and executor’s nomination in testator’s will (otherwise, they may forfeit their right to act as the PR/executor
  • The PR/executor is a fiduciary role – they must be able to carefully account for and manage all real property, personal property, cash, investments, etc. (otherwise, they may be subject to personal liability for mismanagement) 
  • Note: the individual does not have to be a family member or relative 

Multiple successors recommended:

  • Most attorneys recommend that your estate include multiple successor individuals who can act if the earlier nominee is unavailable to serve. A minimum of a first and second choice should be considered. 
  • Married couples typically nominate each other as their first personal representative, then a sibling or adult child as successor. 

Co-personal representatives:

  • After your spouse, you may want to consider nominating co-representatives who will serve together, such as all of your adult children.
  • Nominating co-representatives can help to effectuate business succession planning while not burdening a grieving spouse, prevent children from fighting over the decisions of only one heir, etc. 
  • Estate plans that nominate co-representatives should include a provision to break ties when co-representatives disagree; common methods of tie-breaking selects the oldest sibling, an attorney, a mediator, a close family friend, or other individual to make decisions if the opinion is split. 
  • Unfortunately, Oklahoma law allows co-representatives to use estate funds to resolve their disputes concerning the estate, meaning the named beneficiaries are certain to lose no matter which co-representative wins a particular issue. The longer and more extreme the contested issue becomes, the more the estate funds or assets are spent on attorney fees. 

Compensation for services: 

  • Many trustees, executors, and administrators elect to waive compensation for their services. However, these representatives are usually allowed to be compensated from the estate funds. 
  • By statute, co-executors and co-administrators are entitled only to the same fee which would be allowable to a single personal representative – therefore the total fee amount may be divided among the co-personal representatives as the representatives or court deems appropriate.  

Trustee, Personal Representative, and Executor Attorneys:

Contact Avenue Legal Group for assistance with starting a new estate plan, updating your existing estate plan, handling an Oklahoma probate (including summary probate or ancillary probate), or resolving a dispute between co-representatives.

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