Se Habla Español
Call for Your Free Consultation 405.788.4662

Techniques for Avoiding Probate

You may be curious to know what probate means and what the process entails. In Oklahoma, upon the death of a property owner, their estate goes through what is referred to as probate. Probate is a court supervised process where the decedent's estate assets are valued and distributed to the creditors and heirs. Probate proceedings take place in the district court in the county where the deceased person lived. Oklahoma law requires probate proceedings for the purpose of protecting all parties who have an interest in the decedent's estate. Probate is necessary for the following reasons:

  • To identify and collect the decedent's assets.
  • To protect the estate property.
  • To pay all debts, claims and taxes against the estate.
  • To determine who is entitled to share in the estate and distribute the estate property to the rightful parties.
  • In the case of real estate, probate provides a method to secure the legal transfer of ownership and maintain a clear chain of title.

While probate certainly has its reasons, not everyone wants their estate to go through probate. Or, at the very least a lot of people want to minimize their "probate assets" in order to cut costs and ensure their heirs receive a portion of their inheritance sooner. The minimum time required for an Oklahoma probate is 12 months and large estates with property to be sold generally take longer.

There are special procedures available for administering small estates and there are techniques that can make probate much shorter, or in some cases avoid it altogether. Avoiding probate doesn't have to be a difficult procedure, but it will take some planning. Many people employ certain techniques to ensure that all or some of their property passed directly to their heirs without having to go through probate court.

Probate assets are those assets that pass through your will, and they are generally assets that you own solely in your name; therefore, by reducing your probate assets, you can minimize or avoid probate. Some common probate avoidance techniques include:

  • Payable on death bank accounts
  • Joint ownership property
  • Life insurance with beneficiary designations
  • Retirement accounts with beneficiary designations
  • Gifts
  • Simplified procedures for small estates

One of the most commonly used tools for avoiding probate is the revocable living trust. The advantage of placing your property into a revocable living trust is that when you die, the trust property is not counted as a part of your estate since trust assets transfer automatically to your beneficiaries without the need of probate. What's right for you and your family will depend upon your individual circumstances and your family dynamics.

To learn more about the various probate avoidance techniques, we urge you to contact Oklahoma City estate planning attorney, Elizabeth A. Richards. With over 25 years of experience working with clients to maximize their estates while reducing taxes as much as possible, attorney Richards is prepared to help you! Contact our Oklahoma City estate planning and probate law firm today at (405) 788-4662 for competent and professional legal representation.