Do All Wills Have to Be Probated in Oklahoma?

By Joseph Scrofano

Probate is the legal process where a court oversees the administration of a person’s estate after death. It typically includes taking an inventory of all of the estate’s assets, repaying any debts or taxes from the estate, and distributing the remaining assets pursuant the will’s instructions. In Oklahoma, as in most states, the first step is for the will's executor to file the will for probate in the district court where the decedent resided.

Probate is the legal process where a court oversees the administration of a person’s estate after death. It typically includes taking an inventory of all of the estate’s assets, repaying any debts or taxes from the estate, and distributing the remaining assets pursuant the will’s instructions. In Oklahoma, as in most states, the first step is for the will's executor to file the will for probate in the district court where the decedent resided.

General Process

All wills must be probated in Oklahoma. Once the executor files the will with the court, the court’s first responsibility is to decide if the will is legal and authentic. This process is relatively simple unless an interested party challenges the validity or authenticity of the will. Once the will is authenticated, the executor must file an inventory of the estate’s assets with the court. The executor must collect all monies due to the estate, find all the heirs and possible heirs listed in the will, account for any and all debts and taxes, and pay those amounts -- all with the supervision of the court.

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Legal Matters

The regular probate process includes the preparation and filing of several legal pleadings, the publishing of certain notices to creditors and possible heirs in newspapers, attendance and participation in several court hearings, property appraisals for the estate and accounting for all funds. In addition, the executor must prepare interim and final tax returns for the estate, and distribute the property pursuant to the will’s instructions and with approval from the court.

Small Estates

While all wills must be filed for probate, small estates may go through a much simpler probate process than larger estates. Under Oklahoma law, a small estate is defined as $150,000 or less. Expedited and simplified probate procedures can be initiated with an application by the executor and approval of the court.

Small Estate Probate

Wills with estates valued at less than $150,000 must be probated. However, the executor can apply to the court for expedited procedures. This may be done only after the appraisal of the estate’s assets determines that they are worth less than $150,000. The court has the authority to dispense with the regular probate proceedings, order notice to any creditors, then summarily order a hearing to distribute the assets and discharge the probate after the executor provides the final accounting. This process generally follows a shorter time frame than regular probate, and may save the estate money.

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Time to Probate a Will in Texas

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What Happens After an Estate Has Been Probated?

Whether a person dies with our without a will, in most cases, his estate must go through the probate process. Although state probate laws vary, the probate process is fairly uniform throughout the United States. It is generally a court-supervised process for gathering the assets of the deceased, paying his creditors and taxes and then distributing his remaining assets to his beneficiaries if there is a will -- or to his heirs, according to the state's laws of intestate succession, if there is no will. During the probate process, real property owned by the deceased is retitled to his beneficiaries or heirs. To open probate and begin the process, an interested party, typically a beneficiary or heir, must file a petition with the state court that handles probate.

Can an Executor Probate a Will Without a Lawyer?

A will must be probated and an executor must be appointed before the assets of a deceased person can be legally distributed. Probate is the legal proceedings in which a person -- typically referred to as an executor or executrix -- is given the legal authority to handle the estate's financial affairs, and transfer the shares and assets to the heirs as dictated by the provisions of the will.

What to Do When Someone Dies Without Leaving a Will?

When someone dies without a will or other estate planning direction, this is legally known as dying "intestate." Intestate estates are distributed to heirs according to state statutes. Spouses and children are first in line to inherit intestate estates. If there is no spouse or children, then next of kin inherit. An intestate estate must pass through probate court before it is distributed to heirs. If there are no relatives, an intestate estate passes to the state.

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