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Brier Law Firm, PLLC June 6, 2024

How to Avoid Probate in Oklahoma

At Brier Law Firm, PLLC, we recognize how overwhelming probate administration can be for our clients. Although many families need to go through this legal process after the loss of a loved one, it can be emotionally taxing and financially exhausting. While it's a large focus of our practice, we understand that probate is not the most ideal path for everyone.  

The good news is, there are options and strategies for avoiding probate in Oklahoma. By taking proactive steps, you can save your family time, money, and stress after you're gone. 

If you have any questions or need assistance with your estate planning, contact our firm in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We are here to help you protect your legacy and provide peace of mind for you and your family.  

What Is Probate? 

Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person's estate is administered and distributed. This involves validating the deceased's will (if one exists), paying off any debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful beneficiaries.  

During probate, the court oversees the process to make sure the deceased's wishes are respected and that the estate is handled according to Oklahoma state laws. While probate serves as a safeguard for orderly asset distribution, it can also be time-consuming and costly, which is why many people try to avoid probate through effective estate planning. 

Ways to Avoid Probate in Oklahoma 

Here are several strategies you can use to bypass the probate process in Oklahoma, helping to ensure a smoother transition of your assets to your loved ones: 

Living Trusts 

One of the most effective ways to avoid probate is by creating a living trust. This involves transferring ownership of your assets—such as real estate, bank accounts, and vehicles—into a trust, with yourself as the trustee. You will also designate a successor trustee to manage the assets after your death.  

Here's how it works: 

  • Create a trust document: This document outlines your wishes and names a successor trustee. 

  • Transfer ownership: Transfer your assets into the trust, making you the trustee. 

  • Manage assets: Continue to manage the assets during your lifetime. 

  • Successor trustee: Upon your death, the successor trustee will distribute the assets according to the terms of the trust, bypassing probate court proceedings. 

Joint Ownership With Right of Survivorship 

Oklahoma allows for joint ownership arrangements that include the "right of survivorship." This means that when one owner dies, the surviving owner automatically acquires full ownership of the property without the need for probate.

Types of joint ownership include: 

  • Joint tenancy: Each owner (joint tenant) owns an equal share of the property. When one joint tenant dies, their share automatically passes to the remaining joint tenants. 

  • Tenancy by the entirety: Exclusive to married couples, this form of joint ownership operates similarly to joint tenancy but offers additional protections against creditors. 

Payable-on-Death (POD) Designations 

Another straightforward method to avoid probate is through POD designations. This approach allows you to designate beneficiaries directly on your financial accounts, such as bank accounts, certificates of deposit, or brokerage accounts. 

Here’s how it works: 

  • Designate beneficiaries: When you set up your accounts, you can designate one or more beneficiaries who will receive the funds upon your death. 

  • Direct transfer: Upon your passing, the funds in the POD accounts are directly transferred to the named beneficiaries without passing through probate. 

  • Maintain control: While you’re alive, you retain complete control over the accounts, including the ability to use the funds, change beneficiaries, or close the accounts. 

  • Easy setup: Setting up POD designations is typically simple and can be done through your financial institution. This ensures a hassle-free transfer of assets, providing peace of mind that your beneficiaries will receive their inheritance promptly and without additional legal hurdles. 

By utilizing POD designations, you can effectively streamline the transfer of your assets, reducing the burden on your loved ones during an already difficult time. 

Transfer-on-Death (TOD) Registration 

Oklahoma also allows TOD registration for various types of assets, including securities, real estate, and vehicles. This process involves: 

  • Securities: Register stocks and bonds in TOD form to transfer ownership to a named beneficiary upon your death. 

  • Real estate: Use a transfer-on-death deed, also known as a beneficiary deed, to name a beneficiary who will inherit the property without probate. You can revoke or amend the deed anytime during your lifetime (Okla. Stat. Tit. 58 § 1251). 

  • Vehicles: Register your vehicle with a TOD form to make sure it passes directly to your designated beneficiary upon your death. 

Simplified Probate Procedures 

In Oklahoma, simplified probate procedures are available for small estates that fall below a certain value threshold, making the probate process quicker and less expensive. These procedures are aimed at reducing the burden on the court system while providing heirs and beneficiaries with a more efficient means of handling the decedent's assets.  

There are two main types of simplified probate procedures: an affidavit for the collection of personal property and simplified administration.

1. Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property 

An affidavit for the collection of personal property allows heirs to claim the decedent's assets without the need for formal probate proceedings, provided the total value of the estate does not exceed $50,000 and certain other conditions are met. Here's how it works: 

  • Eligibility: The decedent must have been deceased for more than 10 days, and the total value of the probate assets must be below $50,000. 

  • Affidavit preparation: An heir or beneficiary must prepare an affidavit stating their right to the assets and specifying the decedent's relevant details, including the date of death and a description of the assets. 

  • Presenting the affidavit: The affidavit must be presented to the institution or individual holding the assets (such as a bank or insurance company), along with a copy of the death certificate. 

  • Receipt of assets: Upon review and acceptance of the affidavit, the holder of the assets can release them directly to the heir or beneficiary, bypassing the court. 

2. Summary Administration 

Summary administration is a simplified court procedure available for estates that meet specific criteria, including estates valued at $200,000 or less, estates where the decedent has been deceased for more than five years, or when the primary beneficiaries are the surviving spouse or minor children. Here are the key steps: 

  • Petition for summary administration: An interested party, such as an heir or executor, must file a petition for summary administration with the probate court. 

  • Notice and hearing: The court will schedule a hearing and issue a notice to potential heirs, creditors, and interested parties, providing them an opportunity to present any objections. 

  • Court review: At the hearing, the judge will review the petitioner’s evidence, including a list of assets, debts, and proposed distributions. 

  • Order for distribution: If the judge finds the petition in order, they will issue an order allowing the direct distribution of assets to the named beneficiaries, reducing the typical probate time and expenses. 

These streamlined procedures ensure that eligible small estates can be settled more swiftly and with less administrative burden, allowing families to handle their loved one's affairs with greater ease.

If you believe your estate may qualify for simplified probate procedures, we recommend consulting an experienced estate and probate lawyer to guide you through the process and make sure all the legal requirements are met. 

Plan for Tomorrow, Starting Today 

By utilizing effective planning strategies, you can significantly reduce potential burdens on your loved ones and make sure your assets are distributed according to your wishes without the complications of probate. At Brier Law Firm, PLLC, we're committed to helping you create a comprehensive estate plan tailored to your needs. 

With years of experience in law, finance, and banking, our lawyer, Leslie K. Brier, is dedicated to protecting your interests and handling your case with the care it deserves.  

For more information on our probate administration and estate planning services, connect with our Tulsa office today. You can call us or use our online form to schedule a consultation.

We proudly serve clients in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and throughout Rogers County and Wagoner County, including the communities of Cherry Street, Kendall-Whittier, Mcclure Park, Patrick Henry, South Peoria, Longview Lake, and Turley. 


How to Avoid Probate in Oklahoma  -

At Brier Law Firm, PLLC, we recognize how overwhelming probate administration can be for our clients. While it's essential for many families to go through this legal process after the loss of a loved one, it can be emotionally taxing and financially exhausting.

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