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Oklahoma Estate Administration

Do you need a will or a trust? There are several good reasons to have a will or a trust, most importantly having a will or a trust allows you to decide who receives what assets and property and when, instead of leaving these choices to the law. Without a will, the court could appoint someone to be the personal representative of your estate, and this can be a different person than the one you would choose when given the choice. For example, the court may appoint your eldest son who is irresponsible with money to settle your estate when you would much rather prefer your youngest daughter to have this responsibility because she is a more trustworthy person.

When a property owner dies with a valid will their estate will go through the process of probate. Probate is a court-monitored procedure where the decedent's assets are collected and assessed, debts against the estate are paid and the remaining portion is distributed among the beneficiaries or heirs according to the directions set forth in the will. When there is a will, an executor is nominated by the deceased to settle the decedent's affairs after he or she dies – this is probate.

Unfortunately, not everybody has a will despite the fact that virtually everyone should have one. People fail to execute wills for a variety of reasons; for example, some people think they don't have enough assets, or they think they are too young, whereas others are very uncomfortable with contemplating their own mortality. In any case, when someone dies without a will it is called dying "intestate" and when someone dies intestate their estate goes through "administration" as opposed to probate; however, the two procedures are very similar with a few differences in the formalities. Once the court appoints a personal representative to settle the estate, the personal representative is responsible for the following:

  • To identify, protect and conserve real and personal property, with the exception of the home for the surviving spouse and children.
  • To collect all rents, payments, and debts that are due to the estate and this includes interest and dividends.
  • To determine all possible heirs.
  • To pay all outstanding debts, including taxes.
  • To carry out all orders of the district court and distribute the property to the appropriate parties.

When someone dies without a will, their estate will be distributed according to Oklahoma's laws of descent and distribution. The law of descent and distribution is subject to any prenuptial agreement, but assuming there is no prenuptial agreement and the deceased leaves a spouse and children, the surviving spouse will receive one-half of all of the decedent's property, whether acquired jointly or separately during their marriage. The remaining half will be distributed in equal shares to the surviving children.

For further information about estate administration or if you have been appointed a personal representative and need professional legal representation, please contact Oklahoma probate attorney, Elizabeth A. Richards, Attorney at Law. With over 25 years of experience, attorney Richards can provide you with the representation you need to streamline the process and remove any uncertainties about estate administration.