By: Sarah Stewart Legal Group

As the old adage goes, there are few things in life that are certain.  Mostly just death and taxes. So, what do you do in Oklahoma when a loved one dies?

(1) Plan the Funeral. Go to the Funeral. Grieve.

The benefit of the probate process in Oklahoma is that there is no expiration date on when you have to begin.  Take your time to get through the hardest part of your grieving process. When you get your head above water, start focusing on taking care of the legal matters of the estate.

(2) Determine what, if anything, was owned jointly with someone else.

In Oklahoma, people can own many assets jointly with another person.  These assets can include real estate, vehicles, and bank accounts.  Though there can be exceptions, it is safe to assume items owned jointly will pass to the surviving owner, outside of the Oklahoma probate process. If your situation is different, an attorney can let you know.

(3) Find out if there are living beneficiaries listed.

Many assets will have beneficiaries listed, such as stocks, bonds, insurance, and retirement accounts.  As long as the beneficiary has been kept up to date and the beneficiary listed is still alive, the assets with listed beneficiaries will go to those named, outside of the Oklahoma probate process.

If there is no listed beneficiary, or the beneficiaries died before the deceased, you will have to probate the asset.

(4) Calculate the value of assets not owned jointly, with named beneficiaries, or owned by a Trust.

You need to have a rough idea of the value of any property not owned jointly, with named beneficiaries, or owned through a Trust.  If these assets include real estate, or are over $20,000, you will need to file a probate in the County where the property is held, or if the deceased is an Oklahoma resident, where the deceased died. If the property is worth less than $20,000 and not real estate, you can usually use an Affidavit of Tangible Personal Property, signed by all heirs, to get the company holding the funds to release them to you.

(5) We have to go through probate.  Now what?

There are a few different options for probate in the State of Oklahoma.  There are shortened versions for estates less than $200,000, estates where decedents passed away more than 5 years ago, and estates where someone died and had their assets probated in another state, but they own property in Oklahoma.  The value of the estate includes all of the assets that have to go through probate, even real estate.

Depending on your situation, you may qualify for one of these fast-track options.  They can be faster than other probates, and cost less. Regardless of your probate process, you will need the names and addresses of all the closest surviving relatives and the names and addresses of all creditors. You will need to determine if there is a Will.  You will also need to decide who will manage the assets of the estate and make sure the assets are distributed properly.

Then, you will have to prepare your documents and have a hearing with the Judge for the County where you are filing.  Though you can file on your own, without an attorney, keep in mind probate is a very complex, time-sensitive process.

It is worth it to at least speak with a few attorneys and see what they have to offer.  We can usually provide you peace of mind and take the worry of the process off your shoulders.