Probate is a critical court-supervised proceeding that is utilized to take control of a deceased person’s estate. While Oklahoma has some nuanced laws regarding how probate proceeds in the state, the process still has the overall purpose of both authenticating and validating a person’s will and making sure that debts are paid.
What Does Probate Mean?
Probate refers to a court-controlled proceeding in which control is taken of a deceased person’s estate. The probate process refers to transferring ownership of a deceased person’s assets to beneficiaries. Some of the primary players involved with the probate process include:
- The executor or personal representative is tasked with administering the estate. These individuals help to make sure that assets in an estate are distributed according to a will.
- Beneficiaries are the individuals who inherit assets from an estate. Sometimes people who are not directly named in estate planning documents might also believe that they have a claim as beneficiaries.
- Creditors might be notified of the probate proceeding and can sometimes collect on debts that are owed by an estate.
Understanding How the Probate Process Works
After a person’s death, a surviving loved one will likely need to collect critical estate planning documents that can be presented to the probate court to determine how the deceased person would like their estate distributed. Most times, a person will also need to commence a probate proceeding with a court. If a will is authenticated, the administrate or executor will be appointed and the probate process will continue. Some of the additional steps involved in the probate process include:
- The executor must both gather and value the deceased individual’s assets, which can include property but also other items.
- While probate continues, it often becomes critical to inform other creditors about the process as well as to collect anything else owed from the estate.
- Once all assets are collected and valued, and debts are paid, the executor will then begin to distribute the remaining assets in the estate to heirs.
How Long the Probate Process Takes
Probate proceedings can take anywhere between several months to several years. Often, the amount of time depends on the complexity of a person’s estate. Often, the lengthiest estates to probate need time for creditors to collect on assets owed by the estate. As a result, the length of time required to probate an estate is often viewed as one of its biggest drawbacks.
Ways to Avoid Probate
With proper planning, many people discover that probate can be avoided. Some of the most common methods used to avoid the probate process include:
- Get rid of the property in your estate. Without any property, you will not have an estate that needs to be probated.
- Adding a joint owner to an account or property deed.
- Using beneficiary designations like 401(ks) or IRAs
- Utilizing a revocable living trust
Speak with an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one has questions about the strength of your Oklahoma estate plan, it can help to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. Contact attorney Jim A Lyon today to schedule a free case evaluation.