When a loved one dies with an estate, his/her assets will be distributed to designated beneficiaries after any outstanding debts are paid. The court-supervised process by which assets are distributed and debts are paid is known as probate. Probate is required for most individuals who pass away with assets owned only in their name. Regardless of whether or not the decedent had a Last Will & Testament, the probate process is relatively the same.
The Probate Process Explained
With proper estate planning, an individual will name an executor to manage the distribution of assets and payment of debts upon death. If no executor is named, the court will appoint an administrator. This is usually a close relative who is deemed capable of handling the job. Once any outstanding debts are paid, the executor distributes remaining assets to named beneficiaries, and property is transferred to new owners. Although probate varies from case to case, the process typically includes the following steps:
- Filing the Probate Petition with the court to begin the case;
- Naming a personal representative or executor;
- Proving that the decedent’s will is valid, if a will exists;
- Inventorying and gathering all the assets of the estate;
- Having all estate property appraised;
- Paying any debts and taxes;
- Determining the heirs and beneficiaries of the estate;
- Distributing any remaining property as per the will, or according to state law if no will exists.
Why Do I Need to Hire an Attorney?
Probate is a highly-technical and time-consuming process. Whether an individual dies with a named executor or one must be appointed by the court, the executor’s duties can be quite complex. He/she is tasked with identifying, securing, and managing the decedent’s assets and debts during probate, a process which can take up to a year.
Furthermore, the executor may have to make difficult decisions regarding which assets to sell in order to pay debts. For example, if the deceased has extensive debt but owned real estate and a large collection of valuable artwork, the executor may have to locate a fine art appraiser and/or assess available real estate equity to determine what should be sold to resolve outstanding debts.
When Disputes Arise
If you have been named executor to a loved one’s estate, an experienced Oklahoma probate attorney can help you navigate each step of this challenging process. Being in charge of a loved one’s estate can be emotionally challenging, as beneficiaries may take issue with certain decisions you make. Even with the best planning and most straightforward estates, unforeseen issues can arise, causing serious financial and emotional setbacks. If disputes arise, having legal counsel by your side can be invaluable.
With the help of an attorney, you can ensure that the probate process is as quick, efficient, and cost effective as possible. At Family Legacy Wealth Counsel, our experienced, compassionate probate team will help to ensure that assets are delivered to beneficiaries at the earliest opportunity. Contact us at 918-986-8525 today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.
Is Probate Required?
It is possible to avoid probate with proper estate planning. This is one of the many reasons it is in your best interest to create a comprehensive estate plan early on, whether you have amassed significant wealth or have a modest income and minimal assets. Our experienced estate planning legal team can discuss the myriad options available to you, including Revocable Living Trusts and Transfer on Death Deeds, and ensure that your beneficiary designations and other aspects of estate planning align with your unique needs and goals.
In Oklahoma, as in most states, a certain amount of property may pass through to beneficiaries without going through probate. The decedent’s spouse will also receive property free of probate. There are additional vehicles for avoiding probate, such as living trusts. Consult with an Oklahoma estate planning lawyer at Family Legacy Wealth Counsel to learn more.
The reality is, probate has little to no benefit to estate beneficiaries, but it always costs them in dollars and time. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce the amount of assets subject to probate, or even to avoid the process altogether. But without an experienced probate attorney by your side, attempts to avoid unnecessary steps, costs, and time will likely be in vain.
Contact Family Legacy Wealth Counsel Today
Whether you are considering creating or updating an existing estate plan, have recently been named executor or administrator to an estate, or you’re embroiled in a contentious estate-planning dispute, we can help. Family Legacy Wealth Counsel offers comprehensive estate planning services for families of all financial means.
Our practice is concentrated in the areas of estate planning, probate and trust administration, and business and employment law. We represent Oklahomans from all walks of life and tailor our strategies to each client’s unique needs, goals, and objectives. Contact Family Legacy Wealth Counsel Today at 918-986-8525 for a free and confidential consultation about your case.