If you are wrapping up a person's estate in Oklahoma, you might be able to speed the process up, or even avoid it altogether. Probate is a court proceeding which collects and distributes a person's property after they pass away. Probate proceedings can be commenced when a person has a Will, or when they die without one. Probate can be a lengthy and costly process, and it delays the release of property to the inheritors. Thankfully, there are ways for people to avoid probate in Oklahoma.
1. Small Estate Affidavit for Bank Accounts
Bank accounts often go through probate. However, under Oklahoma law, a person can avoid probate on bank accounts, savings and loan associations, and credit unions if they meet certain requirements. When the amount in a given account is less than $20,000, heirs can access the funds without probate by simply providing an affidavit to the bank. According to 6 O.S. Section 906,
When a deposit has been made in a bank or credit union in the name of a sole individual without designation of a payable-on-death beneficiary, upon the death of the sole owner of the account if the amount of the aggregate deposits held in single ownership accounts in the name of the deceased individual is Twenty Thousand Dollars ($20,000.00) or less, the bank or credit union may transfer the funds to the known heirs of the deceased upon receipt of an affidavit sworn to by the known heirs of the deceased which establishes jurisdiction and relationship and states that the owner of the account left no will.
This statute requires the heirs to sign an affidavit instructing the bank that they are legally entitled to receive the funds. In the event that the people who complete the affidavit are not legally entitled to receive the funds, those who improperly claim the funds will be required to pay the money back.
This option is appropriate when the person who died did not leave a Will and did not provide for the bank account to be automatically transferred upon their death.
2. Joint Tenancy
Joint tenancy means that an estate or other property is held jointly by two or more people. In a joint tenancy, when one person dies, the other joint tenant will inherit the person's share. Oklahoma law permits the surviving joint tenant to change title on the property after the other joint tenant dies without going through a probate proceeding.
The procedures for claiming the other share are found in 58 O.S. 2001, Section 912, which allows the surviving tenant to file an affidavit with the county clerk.
3. Delivery of Personal Property Affidavit
If a person needs to transfer stocks or bank accounts which were the property of a deceased relative, the person can also utilize 58 O.S. 2001, Section 393, which allows a person to complete an affidavit attesting to the following facts:
• That the fair market value, less liens and encumbrances, of the property located in Oklahoma does not exceed $10,000;
• That there is no petition for appointment of a personal representative;
• That the estate's taxes and debts have been paid in full or are barred by a statute of limitations.
If the inheritor complies with this statute, the person or institution which holds the personal property must turn the property over to the rightful inheritor.
4. Government Death Benefits
If the deceased person is entitled to death benefits from the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System, the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System, or the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System, the person's heirs may use the affidavit procedure.
The person's heirs must submit an affidavit attesting to the relationship, and a corroborating affidavit from a person who was familiar with the affairs of the deceased person. The Oklahoma government agency responsible for distributing the benefit may then pay the death benefit to the survivors.
5. Vehicles, Boats, or Outboard Motors
The inheritors of a person's vehicles, boats and other modes of transportation may complete a "No Administrator Affidavit" with the Motor Vehicle Division of the Oklahoma Tax Commission. To transfer title in this way, a person must file the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate with the tag authorities. This procedure applies when there is no probate or administrative proceeding, and no other person is legally entitled to claim the property.
6. Unclaimed Property
The Oklahoma State Treasurer collects and administers property that is deemed as "unclaimed." If it turns out that the decedent left unclaimed property, the heir can sign an affidavit stating that he or she is entitled to receive the property, attesting that here has been no probate, and that the heir will indemnify the State for any loss, including attorney's fees, should another claimant assert a prior right to the property. Contact an Oklahoma Estate and Inheritance Attorney
If you are settling a loved one's estate, or you are planning your own estate, it helps to speak with an experienced family lawyer who knows about the Oklahoma probate system. You can contact one of our probate lawyers today, or call 405-542-2529 (542-CLAW) and one of our Oklahoma Probate Attorneys will help. Read more about our team, or continue reading and researching our free legal information library.