What is Oklahoma Probate Process Step by Step
Hi, my name is Steve Cortes at the Cortes Law Firm. This is the third of six quick, educational videos in a series that we're doing on estate planning. If you missed the first two videos, then you can use the link below to watch them. And if you have any questions along the way, please don't hesitate to give me a call.
Our topic today is the Oklahoma Probate Process. The Oklahoma probate procedure can be confusing and frustrating for many people. The probate process that I'll describe today can take six to 10 months on average. However, we regularly have probates that last over a year or longer when the heirs and the family are fighting over assets.
So an Oklahoma probate begins by filing a petition requesting that someone be named as personal representative of the estate, and that the court determine the deceased person's heirs. A notice of hearing must be given to all interested parties by US mail, and a by publication in a newspaper that qualifies for legal notices.
At the initial hearing, the court will issue what's called letters of administration, appointing someone as personal representative of the estate. After the initial hearing, notice to creditors must be given to all known creditors by US mail and again, by publication in a newspaper qualified to print legal notices. If creditors come forward, then the personal representative must determine if the claim is legitimate, and if so, then request an order from the court, allowing payment of the claim. Now once the creditor claim is paid, then the personal representative must get a release of claim from the creditor and make certain that it's filed with the court.
The next step is for the personal representative to conduct an inventory and appraisal of all assets in the estate, and submit to the court for approval. Once the court approves the inventory, then the personal representative must make an application for a final hearing and distribution of assets to the heirs.
So as you can see, each of these steps requires notices to heirs and to all interested parties by either mailing, publication in the newspaper, or most of the time, both. After the court issues its final order, the personal representative's job is not over until all the assets have been distributed per the court's order, and all the expenses have been paid.
Now what I just went over are the steps generally, but as you can see, the probate process is time consuming and can be expensive, especially if the heirs and the family are fighting over assets. It is possible to avoid probate by distributing assets with certain tools such as joint tenancy with right of survivorship, pay on death designations, and transfer on death designations.
Now while these are important tools, they can have unintended consequences. I always ask couples with kids, "Do you want your kids to have your assets, "or do you want your wife's new husband's kids "to have your assets?" Think about that question again. Do you want your kids to have your assets, or do your wife's new husband's kids to have your assets? That one question illustrates why it's so important to have proper estate planning. A revocable living trust can help you distribute your assets the way you want them distributed, and help your family avoid a lengthy and expensive probate.
Well, that's all for today, but please, don't hesitate to call if you have any questions. And watch out for our next video on the essential documents that are necessary for incapacity planning. If you have any questions, then please give us a call. Thanks and we'll see you next time.