Probate is not a term that occurs in normal, everyday conversation. Unfortunately, when probate does occur in conversation, it is typically related to a person’s death or in anticipation of one dying. As a result, probate can be an uncomfortable topic that brings confusion, anger, and grief. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the probate process in Oklahoma and how an experienced probate attorney can help relieve the discomfort associated with probate proceedings.
What is probate?
In basic terms, probate is the court-supervised process of finalizing a person’s estate after he or she has died. This process entails two steps:
1. Proving that the will is legal and valid; and
2. Distributing the assets of the decedent’s estate, including:
- Taking inventory of the decedent’s estate,
- Appraising the decedent’s property,
- Satisfying any unpaid debts and taxes,
- Distributing the rest of the estate according to the decedent’s will.
What is an executor?
The executor is the person(s) who has been designated by the deceased to handle the distribution of the decedent’s assets in accordance with his or her will. Consult a skilled probate attorney to draft a will and name an executor for your estate.
What is involved in the probate process?
Filing of the will: The probate process in Oklahoma is not particularly difficult, but it can be expensive and time consuming. The process typically begins with the filing of a will (and a petition to admit the will to probate) by the executor(s) named in the decedent’s will or appointed by the court.
Inventorying the estate: The executor must then inventory the decedent’s assets and have them appraised. Not all assets owned by the decedent will go through probate. Assets such as jointly held property, property held in trust and assets for which a beneficiary has been designated will bypass probate.
The executor must also take stock of all outstanding liabilities and encumbrances on the estate, including any taxes. This step also requires the executor to notify the deceased person’s creditors that they have 60 days in which to file a claim against the estate.
For complex estates, the entire inventory process may take several months and cannot be completed until the Internal Revenue Service issues a closing letter for the deceased and a federal tax return is filed with the probate court.
Holding a public hearing: After inventorying the decedent’s estate, a public hearing will be held of which all persons with an interest in the decedent’s estate will be given notice. At this time, the court will normally designate the executor as the official personal representative for the estate.
Final accounting: Once all documents have been filed and the 60-day period for filing claims against the estate has expired, the executor must make a final accounting of the deceased person’s estate which will then be reviewed by the court. If the court approves the final account, the remaining assets will be distributed, in accordance with the deceased’s will. After the final distribution of the assets, the executor will be released from his or her duties.
The entire probate process often takes 6 – 12 months from start to finish and can cost thousands of dollars in court costs and legal fees. However, depending on the size of the estate, methods can be taken to shorten the length of the process which will also reduce associated costs. A knowledgable probate attorney can provide you with more information about the probate process in Oklahoma and how to protect the interests of your estate after death.
Free Consultation: Muskogee Probate Attorney
Contact the Muskogee lawyers at the Wirth Law Office – Muskogee for a free consultation today at (918) 913-0725 or call toll-free at (888) 447-7262. If you prefer to contact a Muskogee probate attorney by email, by using the form at the top of this page.