Oklahoma State Trust Laws After the Death of a Trustee

by Tom Streissguth

A living trust can spare your family from the trials and tribulations of probate court. In Oklahoma, a trust grantor may set up a trust and then name a trustee to handle the assets. The trustee makes distributions to beneficiaries, according to the terms set down by the grantor. If a trustee dies or becomes incapacitated, then the trust -- as well as Oklahoma law -- decides what happens next.

Trust Basics in Oklahoma

An Oklahoma trust can be either revocable or irrevocable. With a revocable trust, the grantor can make changes to the trust as he sees fit, or revoke the trust altogether. He can replace the trustee, name new beneficiaries, or remove the beneficiaries originally named. A grantor may also name himself as the trustee. An irrevocable trust generally may not be changed by the grantor. Oklahoma law allows the beneficiaries or the trustee to petition a court for a change in the trust under certain circumstances. In both kinds of trust, it's common practice to name a secondary or successor trustee.

Successor Trustees

Circumstances change, and the trustee named by an Oklahoma grantor may become incapable of carrying out the trust's instructions. An individual trustee may resign, become incapacitated or pass away. Similarly, a grantor may name himself as trustee of a living trust set up the trust while still alive, and name a successor trustee to take over administration after he dies. In these cases, the successor trustee whom the grantor names becomes the new principal trustee.

Successor Trustee Authority

A successor trustee may distribute assets to beneficiaries immediately, or continue management of the trust for years after the death of the grantor. The trust decides the duties of the trustee. The probate court does not involve itself in administration of the trust or the appointment of trustees. However, if the trust does not name a successor trustee, then an individual or organization with standing -- such as a beneficiary -- would have to petition a court to name a trustee. Alternatively, the beneficiaries may unanimously agree to appoint a trustee of their own choosing.

Acts of Successor

The successor trustee must provide proof of his authority to act. This means providing a copy of the trust document -- and all amendments -- as well as the original trustee's death certificate to the banks, investment brokers, pension administrators and all other parties who are holding assets belonging to the trust. If the successor trustee will be liquidating real estate from an estate, Oklahoma law requires a tax clearance certificate from the Oklahoma Tax Commission, which assures buyers that real estate taxes have been paid. As of 2014, Oklahoma has no estate tax, but federal estate tax may be due if the original grantor passed away leaving a revocable trust for a successor to manage.