Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s estate after their death. Many stages are involved, including paying final taxes and other debts before distributing the remainder to heirs.
The first step is determining whether the decedent had a will or created a trust. If no estate plan exists that clearly outlines their wishes, the distribution is handled according to Oklahoma probate laws, which can take more than a year.
Possible ways to skip or speed up probate
Oklahoma has shortcuts available to shorten the probate process. These include:
Small Estates Affidavit: In some cases governing “small” estates, defined as those with a fair market value of $50,000 or less, heirs can skip probate by drafting a legal document, signed under oath, stating they are entitled to receive a specific asset. When the person or institution holding the property, such as a bank, gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, they release the asset. A 10-day waiting period generally applies.
Simplified probate: For estates worth $200,000 or less, with a will in place, heirs can file a written request asking for a simplified probate process. If approved, the court can authorize the executor, also known as the personal representative, to distribute assets without going through all the steps of the regular probate process. This request must include:
- The heir’s relationship to the deceased
- The decedent’s name, age, address and date of their death
- A certified copy of or the original will
- A statement accepting the validity of the will, or declaring that the document has been lost
- Personal information for the executor and any other heirs
- Details for all known creditors
- Descriptions and values for the decedent’s personal property
- Legal descriptions and value for real estate holdings
The simplified process can be used if the decedent has been dead for over five years or they lived in another state at the time of their death. Once the court receives this information, it notifies creditors and schedules a final hearing.
Avoid probate with experienced guidance
Not all of a deceased person’s property is subject to probate, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, contents of a trust and other assets with clearly defined beneficiaries. The best way to speed up or avoid probate is by working with an experienced probate and estate planning attorney.
A knowledgeable lawyer understands Oklahoma’s and Arkansas’s probate laws and can help families avoid costly delays while preserving as much of a person’s estate as possible and preserve their legacy.