One of the most critical aspects of estate planning is naming a person who will make decisions in case you become incapacitated or pass away. After your death, a personal representative (or executor) will perform essential tasks like paying outstanding debts and taxes and overseeing the distribution of assets. While representatives play an invaluable role in the resolution of estates, not everyone takes the steps necessary to make this appointment. Instead, if a person passes away without a will, or dies intestate, a judge in an Oklahoma court will decide who should act as that person’s personal representative. When many people learn more about how this appointment is made, they experience an increased motivation to make sure to write the appropriate estate planning documents.

How Oklahoma Law Functions in Such a Situation

A probate court will appoint an estate administrator in case you die intestate. The court’s decision about how to nominate as an administrator will be influenced by state law. While every state provides a prioritized list of preferred parties to function in this role, Oklahoma’s guidance is particularly detailed. In order, the following parties in Oklahoma are appointed to act as executors:

  • The surviving spouse or someone nominated by the deceased person’s surviving spouse
  • Children of the deceased individual. This can include either adopted or biological children. This appointment is often made independent of birth order.
  • The surviving father or mother of the deceased individual.
  • Brothers or sisters of the deceased individual.
  • Grandchildren of the deceased individual.
  • Any next of kin who is entitled to an inheritance under state law.
  • Creditors.
  • Any legally competent person.

It is often the situation that multiple individuals are equally entitled to be appointed. For example, a person might pass away with multiple children. In these situations, Oklahoma courts can appoint either one or several of these individuals. Oklahoma law, however, also assigns several parties that can never function in this position. For example, a partner in a business can never function as the administrator of an estate.

Other Factors Considered by Oklahoma Courts

Even if a person is named as a personal representative in a will, an Oklahoma probate court will always have the final call as to who will act in this position. The probate court will then authorize individuals to act in this capacity. This means that Oklahoma probate courts sometimes disqualify parties from acting as executors. Some of the most common reasons why Oklahoma courts disqualify entities from functioning as personal representatives include:

  • The person is less than 18 years old.
  • The person is not of sound mind. 
  • The person has been convicted of an “infamous crime,” which includes offenses involving dishonesty or fraud.
  • An executor displays drunkenness, improvidence, of lack of understanding or integrity 

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

The estate planning process is full of challenges, but remember that if you do not take the steps properly before your death or incapacity now, the results will likely be undesirable. To achieve your goals, you should not hesitate to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer. Contact attorney Jim A Lyon today to schedule a free case evaluation.