It would be nice and much easier for everyone if this blog post was one sentence long and simply told you the exact amount of time probate takes in the state of Oklahoma. However, probate is an extensive process, and the length depends on the complexity of the probate estate and the ease of the litigation involved regarding asset distribution and the payment of debts.
Still, there are certain elements you can look out for to determine just how long and/or complex your personal probate process is going to be.
How Does Probate Work?
Probate is the judicial process of determining the ownership of assets after someone’s death. The probate process is the legal process in which the deceased person’s estate is administered. Many people are under the impression that if someone has a will, their belongings will automatically be dispersed based on that.
However, it’s rarely that simple. A probate helps determine the validity of said will, and also helps repay the decedent’s creditors to the extent possible, using the assets of the decedent.
The probate process begins when a personal representative or other interested party files a will, if the decedent had one, as well as a petition for probate with the district court. Then, the court will schedule a hearing and notice must be given to all heirs and any beneficiaries listed in the will.
Probate is necessary to pass title to assets and finalize the decedent’s affairs. In order for a will to have any effect, it must be admitted to probate by the court. A probate allows a personal representative to pay the final bills, transfer title to real and personal property, and disburse assets. Other duties include:
- Take possession of the decedent’s property and inventory the belongings
- Collect rents, payments, and other debts due to the deceased
- Identify any heirs of the estate
- Investigate claims against the estate and either pay the debts or object to them
- Distribute property according to the will or court order
- Prepare paperwork and documents
- Carry out all orders of the court with regard to the probate
Do I Really Need an Attorney?
Oklahoma law does not require that the personal representative hire an attorney. But retaining counsel is strongly recommended, as the probate statutes are extremely complex and technical in nature. If the personal representative makes even small errors, title may not pass correctly or the process may have to start over, which can create a lot of problems for the heirs and beneficiaries of the will.
The passing of a loved one is never an easy thing to go through and adding the workload and stress of probate to your own plate after such an event is not often wise unless you have legal training. The personal representative should also have a responsibility to do the right thing for the best interests of everyone involved, and failure to do so can result in legal liability.
So How Long Will Probate Take?
In a perfect world, every probate would take between four and six months. However, there are so many factors involved that it sometimes take much longer for everything to settle. Depending on the representative, the creditors, the court, and everyone else involved, the months can stretch out, as all parties have certain tasks they must all get done on time, which rarely works out.
All estates are different and the circumstances of each one dictate how long everything will take, as well as how expensive it will be, and the level of expertise it will require to sort out the necessary documents and administer the estate.
There are potential ways to shorten the process and reduce costs, but these techniques are not available in every case, and you should contact your attorney before trying to implement any of them.
If you need the services of an experienced probate attorney familiar with the laws and rules of Oklahoma estates and wills, contact us today. And if you’d like to read more about the probate process in Oklahoma, download our free guide!