Oklahoma probate laws govern every aspect of the probate process, which occurs after most deaths within the state. Unless the deceased has taken steps to ensure all property can pass outside probate, the probate process is necessary to facilitate the transfer of the deceased’s assets and the winding up of his or her estate. The executor has a fundamentally important role to play during the probate process and it is imperative the executor know all the Oklahoma laws which must be followed.
Parman & Easterday provides legal representation to executors (also referred to as “personal representatives) who are in charge of overseeing the probate of a will. Our experienced Oklahoma probate attorneys will make the process of probating a will as easy and quick as possible while ensuring executors fulfill their duty to the deceased and to the beneficiaries who will inherit. If you have been named as the executor of a will in Oklahoma, you need appropriate legal help, so call us for assistance as soon as possible.
Key Things Executors Need to Know About Oklahoma Probate Laws
In the Oklahoma Code, rules and regulations for probate procedures are found in Title 58. Under these regulations, an executor is given the responsibility of petitioning for probate. A petition for probate has to include:
- The jurisdictional facts: As a general rule, the court with jurisdiction over probate is the court in the county in which the deceased lived and/or in which the deceased’s property is located. Determining the appropriate court in which to file for probate can be complicated if the deceased owned property in multiple locations.
- Whether the executor consents to act: Even if you were named as executor in the deceased’s will, you do not have to serve as an executor, . If you opt out of serving as an executor, the court will assign someone else to oversee the probating of the will. Most people choose to respect the wishes of the deceased and serve as executor.
- Details on the heirs, legatees and devisees of the decedent. If you know who are the heirs and other family members, you must provide their names, ages, and residences.
- Details on the estate: The petition for probate must include the types of property in the estate and the probable value. This is very important because when an estate is large enough, estate taxes could be assessed. Federal estate taxes are assessed on estates exceeding $11.4 million in value in 2019. This will increase slightly in 2020.
A petition for a will to be probated must be in writing and must be signed by the applicant. Once the executor has submitted the petition for probate, the rest of the probate process will go forward in accordance with provisions set forth in other Oklahoma probate laws. These laws address issues such as when and how a will can be contested, as well as the responsibility of the executor to manage the affairs of the estate.
Executors have many different responsibilities beyond just petitioning for probate, including notifying creditors of the death and appropriately managing the assets of the deceased until the probate is complete and the property transferred to the new owners.
The executor has a fiduciary duty to manage the property in the best interests of the deceased. This is the highest duty which can be owed under the law. A fiduciary cannot act for his or her own benefit or use the assets of the estate for personal enrichment without violating his or her legal duty and being at risk of a lawsuit.
How an Oklahoma City Probate Attorney Can Help
The probate process can be very stressful, as you are forced to learn a vast array of technical legal details at the same time as you are grieving the loss of a friend or family member. You do not want to be accused of violating your fiduciary duty, nor do you want to let the deceased down or make mistakes that could adversely impact beneficiaries. To ensure the probate process goes smoothly and that you fulfill all your duties as the executor, you should seek legal help as soon as possible.
Parman & Easterday is here and ready to help you. Give us a call today to schedule a consultation and find out more about the assistance we offer. We can be reached via phone at (405) 843-6100 or (913) 385-9400 or you may contact us online to learn more. You can also join us for a free seminar to find out more about how the probate process works.