What to know about probate

In Oklahoma, it may take six to 12 months to complete the probate process for a simple estate. Larger estates with property that may need to be sold may take longer to go through the process. Ten days after an individual passes, a personal representative may be appointed to collect necessary information, and creditors will get up to two months to file claims against the estate.

Some estates may be responsible for paying a state estate tax. Those who died after Jan. 1, 2010 are exempt from this tax while those who died prior to 2010 will have portions of their estate exempted from the taxes. On the federal level, the estate of a person who dies after 2010 has an approximately $5 million exemption. Court costs, estate administration fees and legal costs also need to be taken into account when going through the probate process.

If a deceased individual made a will, that will must be filed in district court if probate is required. In the event that no will was created, state law will determine how property is distributed. A surviving spouse will receive half of any remaining assets while the other half will be split equally among any surviving children. Certain properties, such as a retirement account or a life insurance policy, are generally not subject to the probate process.

While understanding the basics of how an estate is executed may be helpful, there are a number of factors to consider when planning an estate. In addition to probate, certain taxes may be levied, and other obligations may need to be fulfilled before assets can be transferred to beneficiaries and heirs. An attorney may be able to help a client take these considerations into account when helping the client plan his or her estate.

Source: Oklahoma Bar Association , "Is Probate Needed?", October 10, 2014

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