Let's Talk About The Oklahoma Probate Process
The probate process is a court-supervised process of authenticating the last will of a deceased person. The process is required to pay the final bills and distribute the decedent's estate.
If there is no will, the probate process looks similar to an extent, but there are significant differences there too.
Also, the probate process varies from state to state. Save time and energy by retaining an attorney who is familiar with probate law in the state where the decedent passed.
Let’s take a look at the steps in the Oklahoma probate process.
- Start by asking the probate court to name you the executor of the will. If there's no will, in some states you'll ask to be the “administrator.” You will need to file an application, death certificate, and the original will with the probate court in the county where the deceased person was living at the time of death.
- The probate court will schedule a hearing to give interested parties a chance to object to your appointment as executor. Before the hearing, you'll need to send formal legal notice to beneficiaries named in the will and to heirs under state law. If your request is approved, the court will issue documents that authorize you to act on behalf of the estate. In most places, these papers are called Letters of Authority or Letters Testamentary. They’re often referred to just as “letters”.
- If there's a will, you must prove that it's valid. Usually, all you need is the statement from one or more of the will's witnesses, such as a notarized statement, called a "self-proving affidavit”, or a sworn statement signed by a witness now.
- While the probate case is pending, gather assets and open a bank account in the name of the estate. Use the account to pay creditors. This includes bills as well as taxes. Probate cases must stay open for several months to give creditors a chance to come forward.
- As long as you keep enough money to pay final taxes and expenses, you may be able to distribute some assets before the probate proceeding ends. State law might limit the amount you can give, and you might also need prior court approval.
- When the creditors claim period has passed, you've paid debts, filed all necessary tax returns, and settled any disputes, you can distribute the remaining property to the beneficiaries and close the estate. Closing the estate releases you from your duties as executor. Along with your request to close the estate, you'll need to give the court an accounting of your activities. The accounting shows where all the estate assets are going and shows that you've paid creditors.
The probate process is long and involved. The best way to navigate through the process is to have an experienced probate lawyer guide you through. Mistakes in the process will cause delays and drag out the amount of time it will take to complete the probate process. Read more about probate here.