If you use a will as the foundation of your estate plan, you name an executor to administer the estate. After your death, the executor admits the will to probate, which is a court-supervised legal process.
Oklahoma Probate Shortcuts
There are a couple of available shortcuts for the administration of small estates.
An affidavit is a statement that is signed under oath. If you are the rightful inheritor of property valued at $50,000 or less, you may present an affidavit along with the death certificate to the institution holding the property. As long as everything is in order, the property will be released to you.
There is also a simplified probate process in Oklahoma that involves the court to a lesser extent. For estates under $200,000, the executor may petition the court to approve a simplified probate process.
Full Probate Drawbacks
The full probate process has several drawbacks.
Probate is a public proceeding, so probate records are available to the general public. No one wants to surrender privacy, and the information can cause hard feelings among interested parties.
Expenses accumulate during probate. These may include filing fees, an executor fee, legal and accounting fees, appraisal fees, and other expenses. These expenditures come out of the estate, and reduce the beneficiaries’ inheritance.
Finally, probate is time-consuming. Depending on the complexity of the estate and the specific jurisdiction, probate often takes between eight and 18 months to complete.
Probate Avoidance Is Possible
Fortunately, probate is avoidable. If you use a revocable living trust as the foundation of your estate plan, you continue to manage your own assets during your life.
In the trust agreement, you would name a successor trustee to assume the role after your passing, and you may name your own beneficiaries. Upon your death, the trustee distributes the assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with your wishes outside of probate.
The trust offers flexibility in controlling final distributions. For example, you might direct incremental distributions over time for certain beneficiaries. A trust also offers built-in asset protection. Because the trust would become irrevocable after your death, creditors of the beneficiaries would have no access to the principal.
Through a trust, the estate administration process is streamlined since ownership of assets is consolidated. If you are married and you and your spouse own shared property, you may create a shared living trust as an efficient solution.
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We go the extra mile to provide educational opportunities to our neighbors, because we sincerely want you to take the right steps to protect your legacy. In addition to the written materials that we have on this website, we also offer webinars on an ongoing basis.
The sessions are very well received, and there is no charge, so this is a great way to invest a little bit of your spare time. You can click this link to see the schedule for our Oklahoma City-based webinars.