Lawton Oklahoma Probate Attorney


Finding the Right Lawton Probate Attorney


Overview of Probate Law

When it comes to probating a loved one's estate, it is important to find the right Lawton probate attorney to ensure that the administration is carried out in the most efficient and effective manner.  If you are an heir, you most likely have not had to experience the pain of probate settlement. 

Probate law is the process of administering a deceased person's estate, and it involves the distribution of assets to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries. This process is necessary to ensure that the deceased's wishes are carried out and that their assets are distributed according to their wishes. 

Probate law is a complex and often lengthy process. It can be helpful to have the assistance of an experienced attorney who is familiar with the intricacies of the law. The attorney will be able to provide advice on the best course of action, the scope of their services and help ensure that the estate is handled in a manner that is consistent with the wishes of the deceased. Most will provide a free initial consultation to go over your information. A lot depends on whether there are wills, trusts or no planning at all.


Types of Probate 

In Oklahoma, there are generally two types of probate. One is a Summary Probate proceeding and the other is, for lack of a better word, a Regular Probate. There are specific requirements for summary probate and this procedure cannot always be used.

Summary Probate

A summary probate can be used when total assets are under $200,000, and it takes a minimum of 45 days by law. Depending on the Court's schedule, summary probate is usually completed within a couple of months. This can be a great alternative when the estate is small, real estate does not need to be sold, and all the family gets along throughout the probate process.

All heirs must agree in writing to proceed with summary probate administration in order to file the initial Petition for Probate. If just one person disagrees, then the probate cannot proceed as a summary administration.

If the beneficiaries start fighting or can not agree on certain aspects of the probate proceeding, the probate court will usually require that it be converted to a regular probate proceeding. 

Real Estate cannot be sold during a Summary Probate. This is because, in summary probate, the legal heirs are not determined until the last hearing. In order for the title (real estate deed) to change hands, all the parties must agree in writing. If a court does not determine the legal heirs until the end of probate, then there is no one during the probate to legally sign a deed to transfer the title to a new buyer. 

Summary probate is a great tool in special cases where the estate is small, there will not be any litigation from the family fighting, and real estate does not need to be sold. 

Regular Probate

A majority of probates are administered in long form and take several months and even years if the parties do not agree. The attorneys will first determine if there is a Last Will, a pour-over will, or no Last Will at all. If the decedent died without a last will, this is called dying intestate.

The lawyer will meet with his clients and draft an initial Petition for Probate. If the client agrees with the wording, the law firm will file the Petition with the Comanche County Court Clerk. The court will order that the Petition be heard at a future date. Probate lawyers will publish notice of the hearing in the local newspaper and will mail a copy of the Notice of Hearing to all interested parties.

At the initial hearing, the Court will usually make four determinations. 1. Does the Comanche Court have jurisdiction to hear the matter? If the decedent did not live or have assets in Lawton or Comanche County, then the Court might not have jurisdiction. 2. Is there a valid last will and testament and should it be admitted into probate? 3. Who should be the Personal Representative of the Estate? This is sometimes called the Executor and is usually the person who hired the probate attorneys. 4. Who are the legal heirs or beneficiaries of the estate.

Once the Court has made those four determinations, it will appoint the Petitioner as the Personal Representative. This person is charged with administering the estate of the decedent. This involves gathering and identifying all assets, settling claims, administering the Estate, and finally distributing what is left to all heirs.

Creditors usually have 60 days from the filing of a Notice to Creditors to file a claim against the Estate. This Notice to Creditors is published in a local newspaper in Lawton, Comanche County. It is also mailed to all known creditors of the decedent. If a creditor files a claim against the estate, then the Personal Representative decides if it is valid and should be paid. The claim then must be approved by the Court before any payment can be made.

A general inventory is usually required to list all of the Estate's assets. This list should include real estate, personal property, mineral interests, and financial accounts.

When real estate or personal property needs to be sold to satisfy debts or to make money available for distribution, the Personal Representative will make an application to the Court for authority to sell real estate or dispose of personal property. Earlier I stated that the Court determines the legal heirs of the estate at the first hearing. Because the judge has made that determination, all the beneficiaries must agree in writing to selling of real estate or personal items by the Personal Representative. If they do, then the Executor usually sell the house with a Realtor and deposits the proceeds into the Estate bank account.

Once the the Personal Representative has gathered all the assets, paid and settled all claims, then and only then is the estate ready for closing. This is usually done by filing a Final Account. The Notice of Hearing Final Account is published in the newspaper, mailed to all interested parties, and usually set for hearing 30 days in the future depending on the Court's schedule.

As you can see, if everything goes perfect a probate will take 4 to 5 months. They never go perfect and generally take 5 to 7 months. If the family starts fighting then it might take several years to complete the probate.

Common Questions about Probate  

What are the most common issues that arise during probate? 

The biggest issue during probate is the family fighting over assets. It is usually not even money because there is a finite amount of money. The biggest fights hands down involve personal items. For example, who gets the painting over the fireplace?  This painting is usually a family heirloom, and it can be a source of contention between siblings. It can be difficult to decide who should get the painting, especially if it has been in the family for generations. With the right team that will give the correct attention and representation to probate matters, the situation can actually be done without fighting and suffering between family members. 

What are the different types of probate?

As we discussed above the two types of probates in Oklahoma are Summary Probate and Regular Probate.

What is the best way to avoid probate? 

The best way to avoid probate is to decide all these issues ahead of time with a revocable living trust centered estate plan or a transfer on death (TOD) designation.

A revocable trust is a legal arrangement where a trustee holds and manages assets for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries. A testamentary trust can also provide asset protection to beneficiaries. As part of a revocable living trust centered estate plan, it will also provide protection for you during incapacity, avoiding costly and stressful guardianship or conservatorship hearings. 

The assets in a trust are not part of the probate estate, so they are not subject to the probate process.

A TOD designation is a legal mechanism that allows an individual to transfer ownership of certain assets, such as bank accounts or securities, to a designated beneficiary upon their death, without going through probate.

If you have a trust, then you should consider creating a pour-over will. This type of will allows assets that were not transferred to a trust during the client's lifetime to be transferred to the trust at death. Unfortunately, a probate will still be required for assets not in Trust, but it allows those assets to be distributed according to the terms of the trust.

Review and update all beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets that have a beneficiary designation, to ensure that they align with your overall estate plan.

It's important to note that estate planning does require a certain level of investment in terms of money and time, but it can save significant time, money and stress for the heirs in the long run. An estate plan that avoids probate can also help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and in a timely manner, which can provide peace of mind for the you and your loved ones.

What are the consequences of not going through probate?

First, without a court-supervised probate process, it can be difficult to determine who the legal heirs of the deceased person's estate are. This can lead to disputes among family members or other potential beneficiaries, which can prolong and complicate the distribution of assets.

Second, without probate, the deceased person's creditors may not be notified of their death and may continue to seek payment of debts. This can result in assets being unnecessarily tied up in debt repayment, rather than being distributed to the rightful beneficiaries.

Third, not going through probate can result in a delay in the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries, as there is no legal process in place to ensure that assets are properly accounted for and distributed in a timely manner.

Fourth, if the deceased person owned real property, it's not possible to transfer the title of the property without probate.

Lastly, if the deceased person had any outstanding taxes, those taxes would not be settled.

Overall, going through the probate process can help ensure that the deceased person's assets are distributed according to their wishes, and that any outstanding debts or taxes are paid, so that the beneficiaries can receive their inheritance as soon as possible.

What are the steps involved in the probate process?

Probate is the legal process of settling a deceased person's estate and distributing their assets to the heirs and beneficiaries. It can be a lengthy and complex process, depending on the size of the estate and the number of beneficiaries. The executor of the estate is responsible for gathering all of the deceased's assets, including real estate, investments, bank accounts, and personal property. They must also pay any outstanding debts, such as credit card balances, medical bills, mortgages, and any other loans. In addition, they must identify and locate all beneficiaries of the estate, and distribute the assets according to the deceased's wishes. This can be a complicated process, as it requires the executor to locate and identify all of the assets, determine their value, pay any outstanding debts, and then divide the remaining assets among the beneficiaries. The average time it takes to complete a probate case in Lawton is 4-6 months. It is important to note that the executor is responsible for ensuring that the wishes of the deceased are carried out. It is important to ensure that all the necessary paperwork is filed in a timely manner, as failure to do so can result in serious consequences. 

What are some common mistakes people make during probate?

some common mistakes people make during probate include failing to properly identify and collect all assets, failing to properly value assets, failing to properly pay debts and taxes, and failing to properly distribute assets to beneficiaries.

One of the first mistake is not being aware that the deceased person has died testate, meaning they left a valid will, or intestate, meaning they did not leave a will. In case of testate, the will must be located and filed with the court and the appointed executor must be qualified to act as such. On the other hand, in case of intestate, the court will appoint an administrator to oversee the distribution of assets.

Another mistake is not identifying and collecting all assets of the deceased person. This includes not only physical assets like real estate and personal property, but also bank accounts, investments, and insurance policies.

Additionally, many people fail to properly value assets. This is especially important when it comes to assets that are subject to fluctuation in value, such as stocks and real estate. This can lead to assets being undervalued, which can affect the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.

Failing to properly pay debts and taxes is another common mistake. This includes not only outstanding debts, but also taxes that are due, such as estate taxes and income taxes.

Lastly, failing to properly distribute assets to beneficiaries is also a common mistake. This can occur when beneficiaries are not properly identified or when assets are distributed in a way that does not comply with the terms of the will or state law.

Lawton Oklahoma Probate

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Visit Lawton, Oklahoma

Lawton, Oklahoma is a vibrant and exciting destination that offers something for everyone. The city is home to a wide range of popular attractions, from museums and historical sites to outdoor recreational areas and cultural events.

One of the most popular attractions in Lawton is the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center. This unique facility offers a glimpse into the rich history and culture of the Comanche people, with exhibits on traditional art, artifacts, and more.

Another popular destination is the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including bison, elk, and buffalo. Visitors can take guided tours or hike the many trails to see these animals in their natural habitat.

For those looking for a more urban experience, Lawton has a vibrant downtown area with a variety of shops, restaurants, and bars. The city's best places to eat lunch include local favorites like the Los Tres Amigos, which serves some of the best Mexican cuisine, and the Buffalo Grove Coffee Company, which offers a variety of vegetarian and vegan options.

Overall, Lawton, Oklahoma is a great destination for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. It's a place where you can experience the best of the city and the great outdoors, all in one place. So come and visit us, you won't regret it!

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