Dealing with the loss of a father is never easy. When you are also in charge of probating your father’s estate, it can be a particularly stressful time as you try to manage your grief and focus on administering the estate at the same time. If this is also your first time acting as an Executor, you may know very little about the probate process. To give you some idea how long it will take to probate your father’s estate, an Oklahoma City probate attorney at Parman & Easterday explains how long it takes to probate a typical estate in Oklahoma.
What Happens during the Probate Process?
If you have never before been involved in the probate of an estate, you first need to gain a basic understanding of what happens during probate. Probate is the legal process that is responsible for transferring estate assets to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. Unless specific planning was created to help avoid the process, most estates are required to go through some form of probate. Common steps in the formal probate process include:
- Identifying, locating, and valuing all estate assets.
- Opening the probate of the estate by filing a petition, along with an official death certificate, in the appropriate court.
- Notifying creditors of the estate that probate is underway.
- Identifying, locating, and notifying beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate that the estate is being probated.
- Reviewing and approving or denying creditor claims.
- Prioritizing and paying approved claims.
- Selling assets, if necessary, to pay creditors.
- Defending any challenges to the Will or litigating any claims made by creditors.
- Calculating and paying federal (and state, if applicable) income, gift and estate taxes
- Effectuating the legal transfer of the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate.
How Long Does Probate Take in Oklahoma?
Because every estate is unique, the probate process is never exactly the same for any two estates. Nevertheless, in Oklahoma you can expect it to take a minimum or about four to six months to probate even a relatively simple estate if that estate is required to go through formal probate. The reason for this is that creditors have at least two months, after being notified that probate in underway, to file claims against the estate. An Executor must wait out that period, review all claims filed against the estate, challenge those that may not be appropriate, and pay all approved claims before probate can be concluded. Consequently, it is common for even a relatively modest estate to spend six months or longer in probate. In addition, a variety of obstacles and speed-bumps can create further delays to concluding the probate process, For example:
- The estate’s size, value, and the type of assets involved. Though not always the case, the more valuable and complex the estate’s probate assets are, the higher the likelihood of a delay during probate.
- Is the estate eligible to use the small estate alternative to formal probate? Oklahoma, like most states, offers an alternative to formal probate for small estates that qualify. As of 2019, estates with an overall value of less than $200,000 may qualify to use this summary probate. If your father’s estate is eligible, it can make the probate process move considerably faster.
- Were probate avoidance strategies used by your father? A well thought out estate plan can include several helpful probate avoidance tools and strategies that can significantly reduce the time the estate spends in probate. Leaving behind as few probate assets as possible, for example, is an excellent probate avoidance strategy. Some assets, such as assets held in a trust, are considered non-probate assets and bypass the probate process altogether.
- Involvement in litigation during the probate process. If someone challenges the validity of the Will, for example, it effectively stops the process in its tracks until that challenge is litigated. Until the Will is declared to be valid, probate cannot reach a conclusion.
Contact an Oklahoma City Probate Attorneys
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the probate of your father’s estate, or if you would like assistance during the probate process, contact an experienced Oklahoma City probate attorney at Parman & Easterday by calling 405-843-6100 to schedule your appointment today.
There are general guidelines; however, those guidelines are subject to change and they don’t always cover everything. Before you make the assumption that an estate qualifies, it is always best to consult with an experienced probate attorney to be certain.
If the Will is declared invalid, the court will look for another valid Will. If a Will is not found, the estate will still be probated. However, estate assets are distributed according to the state intestate succession rules.
Absolutely! It can be very time consuming to serve as an Executor. With that in mind, an Executor is entitled to a reasonable fee for his/her services. The fee is paid out of estate assets.