Estate Probate Law Firm Oklahoma City, OK
If you’re hoping to avoid a stressful probate process, in regards to your own estate plan or the estate plan of a loved one who has recently passed away, it’s important to connect with an experienced estate probate lawyer Oklahoma City, OK residents trust and to do so as soon as you can. The key to avoiding a contentious probate process is acting proactively. When it isn’t possible to avoid a contentious probate process entirely, the focus shifts to minimizing the stress and contention associated with the process in question.
It’s important to remember that states vary in their approaches to probate. Some states require every will to be “proven” while others only require probate of a will or estate when certain conditions are present, such as a dispute between beneficiaries. It’s additionally important to remember that the term “probate” is sometimes used to refer to the act of estate administration, whether or not the individual who has passed away created a will before their death. In either scenario, it’s ideal for individuals to think about ways to keep any probate process that may affect their estate as straightforward and low-stress as possible. With that said, disputes and questions do arise during the probate process and sometimes the priority shifts from avoiding a contentious probate process to navigating a probate process as smoothly as possible.
Avoiding a Contentious Probate Process
The single best way to avoid a contentious probate process is to ensure that your will and broader estate plan are constructed in clear, legally enforceable ways, and that these documents are updated as major shifts in your life circumstances occur. It becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to be confused by or to question your wishes if your estate plan is constructed in a thoughtful, clear-cut way and is updated as your life evolves. If you don’t yet have an estate plan, you think your estate plan could benefit from being reviewed by a professional, or you’re unsure of whether your estate plan needs to be updated or not, an experienced Oklahoma City, OK estate probate lawyer from Marty Martin Bankruptcy Law can help.
If you’ve recently experienced the loss of a loved one and you’re concerned that the administration of their estate and/or the process of proving their will could become contentious, please connect with our firm as well. Experienced estate planning and probate attorneys know how to navigate such scenarios as efficiently and effectively as possible. It would be our honor to assist you and your family with your legal needs at this time.
Who are Beneficiaries and Heirs?
As your estate probate lawyer Oklahoma City, OK families trust at Marty Martin Bankruptcy Law can explain, a beneficiary is someone that the deceased person may or may not have been related to, and decided to leave them with something out of the estate. This person could have been a beneficiary for a life insurance policy or other related accounts. An heir is a person that was related to the deceased, and if a will was present, an heir may inherit assets from it. But if there is no will written, heirs may then be entitled to inherit a specific portion of the assets based on law.
How can I prepare for probate court?
When attending probate court, what exactly will happen will depend on the nature of the probate hearing. For instance, it may be an initial hearing where a personal representative for the estate is appointed, and a letter of testamentary is provided. Once the notice to creditors is sent and the time has run its course, another probate hearing is logged on the books. At this second visit to probate court, creditors may choose to attend, in addition to heirs and beneficiaries. As your Oklahoma City estate probate lawyer may offer, keep in mind that during any of these probate hearings, the judge may inquire about certain documents and review them to make sure everything is happening based on Oklahoma law.
Is it necessary that I attend?
Choosing whether to attend probate court will be based on what your role is in the process. For example, if you were chosen as the personal representative for the estate, you must attend the hearings as scheduled with the probate court. By having the role, you must fulfill legal obligations and complete the administration of the estate, along with filing reports to the probate court. If you are instead an heir, family member, surviving spouse, or beneficiary, you have no legal duty to attend the hearings, however, you can be present if you so wish.
What does it mean if someone contests the will?
There is no way to guarantee whether beneficiaries or heirs will contest the will, even under the very best of circumstances. While the administration of the estate is being handled, emotions among families can run high. Some heirs or beneficiaries will think that they should get more of the assets in the estate than what they were given, and may claim that the deceased was forced into writing a will that didn’t represent their true wishes. There are many reasons why someone would contest a will, and the reason may be valid or not valid, but either way, it can cause probate delays.
How is probate handled if there is no will?
If the deceased had not left behind a will, then the process of probate can take longer than if there was a will. In situations where there is no will, Oklahoma state intestacy laws would apply. If there is a will, then this means the deceased person has left behind instructions for how their assets should be given away to heirs and beneficiaries, and who they prefer to have as their personal representative for the estate. Without a will, as your Oklahoma City estate probate lawyer can review, state law is used to assess which heirs get the decedent’s assets once debts and taxes are paid.
Legal Assistance Is Available
Estate-related challenges are never stress-free affairs, as no one likes to think about how their property will be distributed upon their death. However, our firm has extensive experience assisting individuals and families with their legal needs during challenging times. If you haven’t yet scheduled a consultation to discuss your probate-related concerns with our legal team, please do so now. An Oklahoma City, OK estate probate lawyer at our firm will provide you with the personalized guidance you need to make informed decisions at this time.
Things That Can Delay the Probate Process
In many cases, an estate can be probated within a year. However, certain circumstances can prolong the process, forcing beneficiaries to wait longer to receive their inheritances. As you can probably imagine, this can be very stressful. Here are several things that can delay the probate process.
- Many beneficiaries. Generally, the more beneficiaries there are, the longer it will take to settle an estate. The executor of the estate will have to locate all of these beneficiaries and inform them that the person has died. Some of these people may live in a different state and have not spoken to the deceased in years. If the executor has trouble finding them, it can delay the probate process.
- Assets that are difficult to value. Certain assets, such as homes and bank accounts, are easy to put a value on. Other assets, however, are not so straightforward. If an estate has assets that are difficult to value, such as racehorses or collectibles, expect for the probate process to take longer.
- A bad executor. Sometimes a testator chooses the wrong executor to handle the estate. When this occurs, the probate process may take longer to complete. For example, if an executor works long hours and does not have enough time to devote to the estate, beneficiaries will have to wait longer to receive their inheritances. Likewise, if the executor is disorganized or bad with money, the probate process can also drag on.
- Family fights. Unfortunately, as an estate probate lawyer in Oklahoma City, OK can explain, family disputes are all too common after a family member dies. If they fight over the estate, it can delay the probate process. For example, if one sibling believes that he or she deserves a larger inheritance than another sibling, he or she may decide to contest the will in court. This can dramatically slow things down and make other beneficiaries feel anxious.
- Multiple wills. It is important for people to make changes to their will when they go through a major life change. However, if they do not specify that they want to revoke the previous wills, it can cause confusion. As a result, the court will have to determine which will go by, slowing down the probate process.
4 Common Myths About Probate
If you are hoping to avoid a stressful probate process, it may be in your best interest to discuss your situation with an estate probate lawyer Oklahoma City, OK that families can trust. This process is notorious for being complicated and stressful, but the dedicated team at Marty Martin Bankruptcy Law can help you with any questions you might have.
Like any complex area of the law, there are many common myths about the probate process. Below you will find some of the most common ones.
- Myth: If you have a will, your estate will not go through the probate process
Even if a person’s wishes are well-documented in a will, it does not mean that the person’s estate will bypass the probate process. Probate is the process of validating and giving effect to the will. The taxes and debts of the deceased must be paid from the estate first before any property passes onto a named beneficiary. The will must also be accepted by the court. The probate process is there to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible.
- Myth: The probate process takes years, often decades
It is true that the probate process does take time. This is mainly because creditors of the deceased must be provided an opportunity to file a claim against the estate for any outstanding debts. This means the turnaround time will vary based on each individual case. However, the probate of a typical estate can be completed within five months to a year. In rare instances, the probate process can last longer than a year, but that is typically because of very wealthy estates.
- Myth: Nothing is left of the estate after probate because the process is extremely expensive
It is true that probate can be expensive. The cost depends on the state law. However, the probate process isn’t going to take out all the estate. In many cases, it is just a small percentage of the value of the deceased’s assets. It will be based on individual circumstances. The cost does go up if there is litigation involved or legal work is provided above and beyond ordinary services. Your Oklahoma City estate probate lawyer can help you understand the cost should you have any questions.
- Myth: The oldest child of the deceased will always be the executor
This is a common myth that the oldest child will be the executor of the will. The truth is, this isn’t always the case. When it comes to probate an executor is named in the will. A court will typically appoint the person appointed by the deceased unless there are extenuating circumstances that deem them unfit. If the deceased did not appoint an executor then the court will select one. However, the age of the descendent’s children does not automatically mean the oldest will be appointed.
If you have any more questions about want an Oklahoma City estate probate lawyer can do, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at Marty Martin Bankruptcy Law to learn more.