By: Sarah Stewart Legal Group
When your loved one dies, he or she may leave a Last Will and Testament naming a family member as an Executor, or he or she may have no estate planning documents at all, leaving the family members to wade through the jungle of the Deceased’s assets and creditors.
Often, those family members find themselves in an unusual situation, where they do not know what to do or where to turn. They know they need to go to Court and become Personal Representatives of the estate, but then, who can do that? And then what? What are your responsibilities if you’re named Representative in Oklahoma?
Under Oklahoma law, the following people can be named Personal Representatives of the estate, in order of preference:
- If a Last Will and Testament is left, the person named as Executor in the Will. If no Will, or the named Executor is not living,
- Spouse or someone the spouse appoints
- A parent
- Next of kin who are heirs of the estate
- Anyone legally competent
- Surviving business partners of a partnership cannot be named as Representatives of the estate
So, now you know who can be appointed. Once you are appointed, what do you do?
Personal Representatives are more or less in charge of managing the estate. They take in the assets of the estate and keep them safe. This includes all accounts, personal property, and real estate. They must be sure that real estate is safe and will not be damaged, to the best of their abilities. They also reach out to creditors to inform them of the death of the Deceased and respond to any creditor claims they receive. They are not personally responsible for estate debts.
Representatives can sell property through the estate, with the right consents and/or Court-approval. They are responsible for making sure the estate is distributed according to law and the Court’s orders. Representatives owe the heirs the duty of performing within the law. They cannot plunder or hide estate assets from heirs and creditors.
Though anyone is able to file a probate in Oklahoma without the assistance of an attorney, there are a lot of deadlines and nuances that must be followed. If you are considering probating an estate, you should reach out to an attorney to help you.
Keep in mind, the attorney fees can be paid by the estate, under Oklahoma law. So, if the estate is big enough, it is definitely worth your time and effort to search for a reasonable and trustworthy attorney to advise you and make sure you are doing what you need to do under Oklahoma law.
Also, if you file and your case does not follow proper procedure, the Court will send you back to try again, repeatedly. This can cause you valuable time and money simply because you are not experienced and do not understand the process. Professionals are here to help you find your way and allow you the room to grieve your loved one. Do not be afraid to reach out.