Probate is a word that is commonly used in regards to estate planning law, and simply refers to the tallying of a deceased person’s assets and debts, ensuring the validity of a will, and then paying debts and distributing assets per the will’s specifications.
Probate occurs in district court of the county of the deceased.
Does My Estate Have to Go through Probate?
Probate can be long, tedious, and expensive. However, it is probably necessary for all assets that you do not have in a trust, including those assets that you address in your will.
This is because the purpose of the probate process in Oklahoma is to:
- Establish the validity of a will and divide assets per the will’s requirements
- Create an inventory of all of the estate’s property
- Determine any debt held by the estate
- Pay those debts, as well as any taxes
- Provide for legal transfer of real estate and other property
- Distribute probate assets per Oklahoma’s law of descent and distribution in the event that no will exists.
As already stated, nearly all assets must go through the probate process. There are some exceptions to this, including assets that are held in a trust, payable-on-death bank accounts, transfer-on-death deeds, and assets held in joint ownership.
It is also important to note that small estates – defined as those wherein assets total less than $20,000 – may also avoid probate.
What Happens If I Die Without a Will?
If you die without a will, your estate will be divided per Oklahoma’s law of descent and distribution – intestate succession.
These laws stipulate how much each family member of the deceased is entitled to. For example, if a person dies and leaves behind a surviving spouse and children, the spouse receives one-half of the property, and the remaining one-half must be divided equally amongst the children.
Why Is it Important to Have a Probate Attorney?
If the deceased has a small estate, an attorney may not be necessary. However, if an estate must pass through probate, working with an experienced probate attorney can be extremely helpful.
An attorney can advise you regarding which assets may pass out of probate – and which are required to go through the probate process like:
- Help to prove the validity of a will and protect it against any will contests
- Help you to understand Oklahoma-specific probate laws
- Ensure that the estate has enough money to pay debts, and explore solutions if not
- Help you to understand state and federal estate taxes
An attorney can also act as a mediator for family disputes about how property should be divided.
Contact Erik Johnson Law Offices Today
If you have questions about the probate process, or want to explore options for avoiding probate, contact the experienced Ada probate attorneys at the Erik Johnson Law Offices today. You can reach us at (580) 279-1975 now.