Probate & Trust Administration
Oklahoma Probate Lawyers
When a loved one passes away, probate is the legal process used to locate, value and distribute his or her property. Probate generally takes place in the county where the deceased person lived, or if the person lived out of state, in the county where the person’s real property is located.
Probate can be a long and complicated process, ranging from several months to well over a year to complete. The process is made all the more difficult because the family is grieving the loss of a loved one.
Our firm has over 50 years of experience handling all aspects of probate administration. We can guide your family through the process from start to finish and help you manage the multitude of document filings, publications, and court hearings required. This will allow you to focus on what is most important—coming to terms with the loss of your loved one.
Our services in this area include:
- Preparation of all legal documents required to enforce an existing will
- Representation at all Court-mandated hearings
- Identification of unknown mineral assets
- Valuation of assets in the estate
- Distribution of estate assets
- Sale of estate property
- Non-judicial transfer of estate property
- Handling tax-related issues
- Handling creditors of the estate
- Contesting and defending provisions of the will
If you are faced with the prospect of probating a loved one’s estate, you don’t have to go through it alone. Contact us at your earliest convenience for a personal meeting with one of our Oklahoma probate attorneys.
In Oklahoma, summary administration is available to certain estates. It is less expensive than traditional probate and requires less time in court. Summary administration can be filed for an estate that meets one of the following requirements:
- The value of the estate is equal to or under $200,000
- The decedent has been dead for over five years
- The decedent resided in a different jurisdiction at his or her time of death.
In certain situations, summary administration allows an administrator to be appointed without a hearing. This can mean the party involved will not have to appear in court at all.
We can determine if your loved one’s estate is eligible for summary administration and handle every aspect of the process on your behalf.
Affidavit of Heirship
If a person passes away without a will, and the decedent’s heirs agree not to take the estate through probate, an Affidavit of Heirship can be used to legally establish who the heirs are, the property the decedent left behind, and how that property will be distributed. The affidavit can be executed without involving the probate court, thereby accelerating the process of transferring ownership. A full list of the property owned by the decedent is included in the affidavit and establishes exactly what property is being transferred to the heirs. In the case of land, this includes a legal description of the property similar to that found on the title deed.
The affidavit must be signed by a notary republic in the presence of witnesses. In Oklahoma, the witnesses must swear, under oath, to the following:
- They knew the decedent
- The decedent had no debts
- The true identity of the family members and heirs
- The person in question died on a certain date and in a certain place
- The witnesses will not gain financially from the estate
We can determine if you and your family would benefit from using an Affidavit of Heirship and guide you through the process.
Probate Avoidance Through the Use of Trusts
Given that probate is time-consuming, frustrating, needlessly expensive, open to the public and can lead to lengthy delays in the distribution of assets, many people choose to incorporate trusts in their estate plans. One of the most commonly used trusts, the Revocable Living Trust, allows the trustmaker’s estate to avoid probate entirely. We have extensive experience designing and implementing trusts, as well as ensuring our clients’ trusts are properly funded.
Many people think that once they have funded a trust it will go into effect “automatically” when needed. This is not the case. For a trust to carry out the wishes of its maker, it must be administered. Trust administration involves filing the last will and testament with the Oklahoma Probate Court and tax filings with the Internal Revenue Service and State of Oklahoma. Additionally, trust beneficiaries and others must be notified of the decedent’s passing. Other duties and responsibilities can include settling creditor claims, opening bank accounts, obtaining a new tax identification number, arranging for the sale of assets, paying the decedent’s final expenses, and more. Throughout the entire process, proper accounting practices must be maintained.
Failure to administer a trust properly can have serious legal and financial consequences for the trustee. If you have been asked to serve as trustee, we can explain all of the steps involved and outline the potential risks. If you decide to take on the responsibility of serving as trustee, we can guide you through the process from start to finish. If you would rather not serve as trustee, we can help you choose the ideal person to do so. We can also work closely with your existing advisors to ensure the directives of the trust are properly carried out.
We invite you to contact us to schedule a personal meeting with one of our experienced Oklahoma trust administration attorneys.