Probate Attorneys in Tulsa, Oklahoma
When a person dies, with or without a last will and testament, that person’s assets – commonly referred to as their estate – must go through a legal process known as probate. Probate is a court-supervised process by which the deceased's solely owned assets are collected, valued, and administered in the sense of using those assets to pay off any outstanding debts and taxes, and finally of distributing what’s left to the person’s loved ones and named beneficiaries.
Now if the decedent left a will naming who should get which and what of their assets, the probate proceedings will use that to distribute everything. If the person died without a will, then the Oklahoma laws of descent and distribution determine how the property will be distributed.
In either case, dying with a will or without, the court will appoint an executor to carry out the functions of probate. If there is a will with a named personal representative, then that person will be appointed executor. If there is no will, the court will appoint an administrator with the same duties as an executor, generally from among family members.
If you have been named executor or administrator of an estate in probate in or around Tulsa, Oklahoma, or if you as an heir or beneficiary have questions or concerns about probate being undertaken for a deceased loved one, contact us at Boettcher & Drummond.
Our probate attorneys can help you navigate the requirements of probate as an executor or administrator, and we can also address the questions and concerns of family members of the decedent to help them resolve issues. We also proudly serve clients in Pawhuska, Claremore, Okmulgee, and Osage County.
What Is Probate in Oklahoma?
Probate is a mandatory legal process when a person dies with or without a last will and testament. (Having a living trust is different in that it avoids probate completely). Probate is for items that are held in the decedent’s name alone.
Non-probate items that transfer outside of probate include property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship or tenancy in the entirety; life insurance policies and retirement accounts with named beneficiaries; and bank, savings, and investment accounts that have payable-upon-death clauses.
How Does Probate Work?
The probate process begins when the personal representative presents the decedent’s will to the probate court in the county where the person passed away. If there is no will, then a family member or close friend should bring the death certificate to the court.
The first step after the court has been notified is the appointment of an executor or administrator (if there is no will). A probate hearing will then be scheduled . The executor/administrator must notify all heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors of this hearing, starting with sending out a notice by first-class mail. And be published in a local newspaper.
Probate proceedings are used to achieve the following goals:
to identify and take control of the probate property,
to protect the estate’s property,
to pay debts and taxes,
to determine who is entitled to share in the estate and distribute the property to the proper parties, and
in the case of real estate and other record ownership property, probate provides a method to transfer title to the property to the ultimate takers and thereby maintain a clear chain of title to the property.
Note that the last step is the actual distribution of assets to beneficiaries. All debts and taxes must be settled prior to distribution. There may also arise challenges to a will’s legality. An heir or other beneficiary named in the will, or in a previous version of the will, can challenge the document on a few grounds.
Some of the most common grounds for challenges include allegations that: it is not the latest version; the testator (will-writer) was under undue influence when the document was crafted; and the testator lacked the mental capacity to know what he or she was doing. The court will have to address these challenges and rule one way or another.
When it does come to the last step – distribution – the executor should obviously follow the wishes of the testator who created the will. If there is no will, the court will use the state’s laws of descent and distribution to parcel out the assets. If there are a spouse and children, they basically will split everything 50/50 – spouse half, children half. If there is no spouse but children, the children get everything. If there is a spouse but no children, the spouse gets it all.
Probate Attorneys in Tulsa, Oklahoma
If you’re facing probate proceedings as an heir of the deceased ,or if you are the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate, you may have many questions and concerns. If you’re in or around the Tulsa area and neighboring communities, reach out to us at Boettcher & Drummond. We are probate attorneys who can answer your questions, address your concerns, and help you in your role as executor or administrator.