This is the next article in our series on Oklahoma inheritance laws and probate navigation.  The last article touched upon the legal and financial responsibilities that come with inheriting a home.  This post will focus on a narrow question of whether a parent’s estate must go through probate in Oklahoma.

Dealing with the estate matter following the passing of a parent can be emotionally challenging.  The uncertainty of not knowing the next steps makes the matter even more daunting.  If you are in the midst of this whirlwind, rest assured we are here to help.  Our team is ready to provide the legal counsel you need, contact us online or by telephone.

Is probate necessary if a parent passes away without a will in Oklahoma?

The short answer is yes, but there is an exception.  Before we go further, let’s talk about probate properties.  The decedent’s assets that pass to an heir through either a will or under the Oklahoma intestacy laws are probate assets.  These exclude properties that pass through the operation of law or contract such as a life insurance policy or a house owned in a joint tenancy.  Properties that are owned by a revocable living trust also avoid probate.  So, when we talk about the probate process, it’s only talking about the probate properties, and not the non-probate properties.

If a person passes away without a will, then they are said to have died intestate.  A last will and testament has many purposes.  One of them is to distribute the testator’s (will-maker) probate assets according to his wishes after he passes away.  But if one dies intestate, there are no instructions on the disposal of their probate assets.  In such a case, the intestate laws of succession apply, and the probate assets of the decedent are distributed according to the state law.

The intestate estate must go through a probate proceeding.  This process can be costly and lengthy therefore discouraging many families from going through it.  To address this issue many states including Oklahoma have enacted a law that helps families avoid the cost of full probate.  A probate estate less than $50K qualifies for a small estate affidavit instead of a probate. Such an affidavit is created for the disposition of personal property under 58 O.S. §393, §394, and access to funds from a bank account under 6 O.S. §906.

Oklahoma law also permits something called a summary probate.  If the estate is equal to or smaller than $200K, or the decedent has been dead for five years or more, or the decedent resided in another state at the time of death, then it qualifies for summary probate.  This process is typically shorter than a full probate, costs less, and involves fewer court appearances.

Is probate necessary if a parent passes away with a will in Oklahoma?

The short answer is yes, with the same exception as above.  Your parent’s will must go through probate for disposition of the probate assets.  However, if the estate is valued at $50K or less, Oklahoma law allows the transfer of the decedent’s personal property using the small estate affidavit as discussed above.  The small estate affidavits can be used by a successor to transfer the decedent’s personal property from another person and funds from a bank account. 58 O.S. §393, §394, & 6 O.S. $906.  If the estate includes real property that is titled solely in the decedent’s name, like a piece of land or a home, then probate may be inevitable.

As discussed above, an estate equal to or smaller than $200K qualifies for summary probate.  This process is typically shorter, requires fewer court appearances, and as a result less expensive.

OKC estate planning and probate attorney

Settling the estate matters of a loved one while grieving is emotionally challenging.  We help you navigate the probate process regardless of the estate’s size.  Whether you are seeking legal counsel to create an estate plan for yourself or help you through a probate proceeding, Niroula Law is here to assist you every step of the way.  Contact us online or by telephone to get in touch with an estate planning firm and to speak to a probate attorney.  Proudly serving Oklahoma, Cleveland, and Logan County.