A last will and testament is a legal document. It is a legal statement by someone that names someone else to manage their estate. It also designates how assets should be distributed at death. When a person passes their Will needs to be validated by a court of law. This is what is called Probate. During the Probate process the Probate Court will validate the legal statement, determine heirs, and make distributions. As part of the process the Personal Representative (or Executor) will pay the decedent’s debts and close out financial accounts.
There are six general steps in the probate process:
- A Probate is filed with the Probate Court and all interested parties are notified.
- The court will then appoint a personal representative or executor to administer the estate and determine heirs.
- All assets will be accounted for.
- The Probate Court will establish a deadline for all creditors to file claims. If a creditor files a claim after the deadline, then they are usually barred forever.
- The final step is to distribute any remaining assets to the heirs (sometimes referred to as beneficiaries).
This is oversimplification of the Probate process.
If one does not exist, then the steps are generally the same. However, the person’s estate is distributed according to Oklahoma probate law.
This can sometimes have mixed results leaving a spouse or children with much less than the decedent might have wanted. For example, let’s say you are married with NO children, but you have living parents, brother and sisters. Under this scenario your spouse gets 1/2 of all jointly acquired property during the marriage, but your spouse only gets 1/3 of everything else. The other 2/3 is split between your parents, brothers and sisters. This example illustrates why proper estate planning is so important no matter what the monetary size of your estate.
A Last Will and Testament can also designate a guardian for minor children and provide for your pets.
Call the Cortes Law Firm at 405-213-0856 or self-schedule under “Becoming a Client” above for a free estate planning consultation. Estate planning attorney Steve Cortes has over 19 years of legal experience and help you customize an estate plan just for you.