Oklahoma Probate

Oklahoma probate: Deliver the Will or be responsible for damages

Have you ever wondered what happens if someone dies and you are the person who is keeping their Last Will and Testament for them?

If not, consider this material.

An Oklahoma law that many people may not be aware can have a big impact on a person who holds an Oklahoma Last Will and Testament after the person who made it dies.

Title 58 of the Oklahoma Statutes, Section 21 provides that within 30 days of the date the holder of a Last Will and Testament finds out the person who made the Will has died, the holder has to either (a) deliver the Will to the District Court in the county in which the person who died lived or (b) deliver the Will to the person named as executor in the Will.

If you are the holder of the Will and you do not do this, it makes you “responsible for all damages sustained by any one injured thereby.”

This law applies whether or not you believe there needs to be an Oklahoma probate.

Don’t forget to deliver!

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning, Oklahoma Probate

What is Oklahoma probate?

Do you hear the phrase Oklahoma probate and wonder what it actually is?  And wonder what happens in an Oklahoma probate proceeding?  Read on to find out. Continue reading →

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning, Oklahoma Probate

What is the Oklahoma summary probate process?

It is kinda like Apple’s iPad Mini: Smaller, but every inch a probate.

Oklahoma’s summary probate process eliminates a couple of the steps that a full probate requires but it gets you to same point in the end.

The Differences
For one, there is only one hearing in front of Judge. That is the final hearing at which the judge signs off on the order give you the relief you requested, if you have done what you are supposed to have done. Instead of a hearing in which the Last Will and Testament is admitted to probate, that happens at the end. The first step after the case is filed, is the judge appointing a person to act as the executor.

The other major difference is that the require waiting periods and deadlines are shorter in Oklahoma’s summary probate process.

What qualifies for summary probate
To qualify for the Oklahoma summary probate process, your estate must fall into one of three categories:

(1) estates with a value of $175,000 or less,
(2) any ancillary proceeding whether or not a will has been admitted to probate in another
jurisdiction, or
(3) any estate in which the decedent has been deceased for more than five years.

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning, Oklahoma Probate

Five Questions and Answers about Oklahoma probate


What is Oklahoma probate?
Oklahoma probate is the process of a court administering the estate of someone who dies to determine:

1. What property the person owned.
2. What debts the person had.
3. Who is entitled to receive the property.

Probate can happen even if you have a Last Will and Testament or a Living Trust. One of the most important elements in determining whether an estate will need to be probated is property: is there property that can’t be transferred without an order from a court? Typically, this is real property, although it may also be mineral interests, bank accounts or investment accounts as well. There are some ways to avoid probate even after a person dies, I listed some of them in this post.


When would you need to use Oklahoma probate?
It most often happens when a person dies as the sole owner of real property or with an insurance policy with the beneficiary designated as the “estate”.  There is no way to transfer title to property without a court order.  When the heirs try to sell the property, they will discover that a probate is necessary.  BUT you might also consider my series “Six Ways to Avoid Probate after Someone Passes Away“.


How long does Oklahoma probate take?
It varies by how complicated it is and what you are trying to accomplish, but generally anywhere from five months to one year.


What is Oklahoma summary probate? Summary Probate
Summary probate is a shorter, quicker version of a full-blown probate. Rather than there being two hearings in front of the Judge, there is only one hearing, at the end of the process. To give you an idea of what to expect, below is a visualization of the Oklahoma summary probate process.  You can read a more detailed article about Oklahoma summary probate here.


How much does Oklahoma probate cost?
It varies based on the attorney and level of complication of the case but typically you can expect $3,000.00 to $4,000.00 in attorney fees and costs.

If you are looking for an attorney to handle your Oklahoma probate, consider this post about finding a probate attorney.

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Probate

How do I find an attorney to do an Oklahoma probate?

If you can find a way to avoid doing an Oklahoma probate after someone passes away, do it. I provided some tips on this in my blog series “6 ways to avoid Oklahoma probate after death

If you must do an Oklahoma probate, then finding a good attorney is essential. Often, finding a good attorney to do anything is a challenge, including doing an Oklahoma probate.

Click to find out about probate

I provided some general guidance on finding an attorney in this post. The other things to look for are:

Experience. You need an attorney who has done at least a few probates. There is no reason to pay someone with no experience to learn the process on your time. For example, you can figure out how much experience I have by searching the Oklahoma State Courts Network records for probate cases in which I have been involved. This type of search (using my name, Oklahoma County only) yields 22 results.

The Oklahoma State Courts Network is available to anyone and you can search cases and attorneys by following this link.

Fees. While shopping for a probate attorney is not like shopping for a toaster or a new bathing suit, it is nice to know approximately how much it is going to cost. For example, an attorney should be able to give you a range of costs, say $2,500.00-$3,000.00 for a standard probate and what any additional expenses will be (such as filing fees).

Availability. The point of this factor isn’t so you can rush through the process. Rather, most people in the position of needing to probate something need to get to certain assets, sooner rather than later. Be certain the attorney you choose can start work on your Oklahoma probate project in a reasonable period of time.

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Probate

The Oklahoma Summary Probate process explained in vibrant, colorful imagery

Court Street, Keene, NH

Sometimes, when someone passes away, Oklahoma probate is unavoidable (read about why in this post).  When you are forced to go through the Oklahoma probate process, what are the options for getting done quicker?

If your estate is small, you may be able to short-circuit the process by using Oklahoma summary probate.


Summary probate is a shorter, quicker version of a full-blown probate. Rather than there being two hearings in front of the Judge, there is only one hearing, at the end of the process. To give you an idea of what to expect, below is a visualization of the Oklahoma summary probate process.


Summary Probate


To qualify for summary probate (technically referred to as “summary administration”), the estate must meet one of the following criteria:

1. The value of the estate is less than or equal to $175,000.00;
2. The decedent has been deceased for more than five (5) years; or
3. The decedent resided In another jurisdiction at the time of death.

If you have any questions about whether an estate qualifies for Oklahoma summary probate even about Oklahoma probate, send me an email (sjr@shawnjroberts.com).


Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Probate

How to change the title to a house after someone dies

Housing Photo used under Creative Commons from James Thompson

This article will show you how to change the title to a house held in joint tenancy when one of the joint tenants has passed away.

The item that most often leads people into probate following a loved ones death is real property: usually a house that was owned solely by an unmarried relative and not in a trust. The only way to change the title to a house is to get an order from a court in a probate case.

In Oklahoma, there is however, another situation where no court order is required: if the house is owned in joint tenancy between two or people, with a right of survivorship. This type of title is commonly found among married people. Upon the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse becomes the sole owner of the property based on being a joint tenant, with a right of survivorship.

Even with joint tenancy, following the death of one of the joint tenants, there are several steps you need to take for the law to recognize that you are sole owner. Below I will list and explain each step. The result of these steps is that you have recorded an Oklahoma Affidavit of Surviving Joint Tenant.
Continue reading →

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Probate

How do you know when you need a Trust instead of a Will?

trust-482655_1280In a previous post, I wrote about the times a person needs to have an Oklahoma Last Will and Testament. The Will is the most basic of estate planning documents. There are, however, times when need and/or personal preference dictate that the revocable trust is a better choice.

How do you know when trust would be better? Consider some of these factors:

1. Privacy is important.

As I wrote a couple of months ago, this factor is often underrated in estate planning. If a Will is probated, all records of the proceeding are publicly available and, indeed, available online for anyone to view and print at any hour of the day or night.

2. Strong desire to avoid probate.

A Will does not provide any means to avoid probate. If you pass away owning real property that is not jointly titled, your heirs will be going through probate process at some point. With an Oklahoma trust however, the trust exists and owns the real property the day it is transferred into the trust. Since the Trust is the owner of the real property, the death of an individual does not impact this.  No probate case is required to transfer title to the real property.  Your family saves time and money.

3. You need to plan for a mental disability or a special needs.

If you have children, grandchildren, or other dependents with special needs a Trust can be customized to meet these needs, by specifying and limiting access or control over inherited property. A Will allows you to pass on your property to those heirs but a Will in itself does not allow you to exercise substantial control over your heirs use of the property.

4. You own real property in more than one state.

If you have a summer home in Missouri, leaving that property in a Will probably means a Missouri probate: hiring an attorney in Missouri and paying attorney fees and costs to get the property transferred. A Trust allows you to hold and pass the title on the real estate to your loved ones without the unnecessary travel and expense if doing a probate case in a foreign state.

5. You have children who are not children of your spouse.

Children from previous relationships require special consideration because each child likely has an absolute right to inherit from their parent.  However, your current relationship circumstances may call for distributing property differently. A Trust, more flexible than a Will, is a better vehicle to handle these considerations and ensure that your assets go precisely where you them to go.

If you found this post useful, below are a few other posts which you may also find useful:

Why privacy is a highly underrated feature of a living trust

When do I need to have a will?

A diagram of the documents used in Oklahoma estate planning

For more Oklahoma estate planning tips, sign up for the email list below.

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning, Oklahoma Probate

Oklahoma Estate Planning Myths


A widely held but false belief or idea.  –  Myth

My goal in this series of posts is to challenge and hopefully dispel some of the myths about Oklahoma Estate Planning. Hopefully, these posts give you some ideas on things you need to do or be thinking about.

Oklahoma Estate Planning Myths: A will covers disposition of all your assets

Oklahoma Estate Planning Myths: Having a Will avoids Oklahoma probate

Oklahoma Estate Planning Myth: If I have a Trust, I do not need a Will.

Oklahoma Estate Planning Myths: If I die without a will, all my assets go to the government.

Oklahoma Estate Planning Myths: I can do my own estate plan

Oklahoma Estate Planning Myths: Estate Planning is only for the wealthy

Oklahoma Estate Planning Myths: I am too young for an estate plan

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning, Oklahoma Probate

Oklahoma Estate Planning Myths: A will covers transfer of all your assets

From the series Oklahoma Planning Myths . . .

MYTH: A will covers disposition of all your assets.

FACT: A will only covers property titled in your name alone at your time of death. Property such as jointly held assets, retirement plans, and life insurance will pass to the surviving owner or designated beneficiary.

In planning, be certain that you have the property that will not pass under your Last Will and Testament set up to go where you want it to go.

For other information on estate planning, including a podcast called “Estate Planning Demystified” check out my Oklahoma Estate Planning page.

This material was adapted from the firm Tellie Coleman, attorneys at law. Tellie & Coleman has an excellent website with some great resource material.

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning, Oklahoma Probate