In Oklahoma City, probate is a legal procedure that a court must go through before giving effect to a will. Before putting a will into effect, a court has to determine that it is valid. For a will to be valid, the following requirements must be met:
- The testator must be at least 18.
- The testator must understand what a will is.
- The testator must understand the relationships one has with friends/family and know what kind of property he or she owns.
- The testator must sign the will.
- The will must be signed by two to three witnesses or be handwritten.
- State which specific persons will inherit which specific property.
- Name an executor to carry out the will.
Do I Need to go to Probate Court in Oklahoma City
As part of this process, the Oklahoma City probate court will determine the validity of the will, inventory the decedent's assets and debts, and then, finally, distribute the estate according to the will, assuming it is found to be valid.
Probate is a court mandated legal process that attempts to distribute the estate of someone who dies. The goal of the probate process is to:
- Verify the validity of the deceased's will
- Identify and inventory the deceased person's property
- Have property appraised
- Pay the deceased's remaining debts and taxes
- Distribute the deceased's property
Wills often name a person as the executor of the estate. If not, the court in Oklahoma City will name one. This is most often the adult individual who stands to inherit the most money or property from the will.
The executor is the person responsible for initiating the probate proceedings. The person who would inherit the most from the will is appointed, because they have the greatest reason to move the process along as quickly as possible, so they can get their inheritance.
In Oklahoma City, initiating a probate process is fairly easy. Whether or not the descendent died with a Will, an application for probate will need to be filed in an Oklahoma City Probate Court.
The general procedure required settling an estate via probate in Oklahoma is the following:
- The Will must be filed in the District Court in the county where the decedent is a resident of.
- A Petition for Probate must be filed and as well an executor will be appointed. If there is no Will, the Court will appoint someone an executor to represent the estate.
- The Court will issue Letters Testamentary to the executor
- Notice of the Probate must be published in a newspaper where the decedent lived. Creditors must file a claim within 2 months.
- An inventory of the estate's assets must be filed with the court within 2 months of appointment of the executor.
- Once all of the creditors and taxes have been paid, a Petition to close the probate must be filed with the court.
- The Court will issue an Order, distributing the estate's property to the beneficiaries.
Duties of the Executor in Oklahoma City
The executor has many duties concerning the will. First, they have to actually initiate the probate proceedings, which must be finished before the will is effectuated. Duties of an executor include the following:
- Taking inventory of the testator's estate
- Appraising and distributing the assets according to the testator's wishes
- Paying any taxes on property
- Settling debts owed by the deceased
The executor is legally bound to act in the best interests of the testator, following their wishes as outlined in the will. If you have been named as an executor and you do not want to serve or are not able, you will have to file a declination. A declination is a legal document that declines your assignment as executor.
Additionally, the executor has to make sure that the decedent's relatives and other people named in the will have notice of the testator's death, usually through the filing of a copy of the official death certificate.
Executors are also required to make available an accounting of the testator's debts and assets, so their affairs can be wound up, along with a list of everyone who is named in the will, or otherwise stands to inherit.
Furthermore, the executor is required to take a leading role in proving the validity of the will. The executor obviously has an incentive to see the process through, since they cannot inherit until probate is complete.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Oklahoma City?
If your estate is large and consists of many assets, it is recommended that you consult an experienced estate planning attorney when creating a will. However, even if your estate is smaller and consists of a few assets wherein a simple will would suffice, it's best to consult an attorney to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes at your death.