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Assets Subject to Probate

Assets Subject to Probate in Oklahoma

Oklahoma City estate planning lawyers help you avoid delays

When a loved one dies, what happens to their property is not always clear. Family members can be denied the use of assets they rely on until the estate settles. Other assets pass automatically to beneficiaries without needing anyone’s approval. At Denker & Zuhdi, PLLC, we understand that the grief of a loved one’s passing is bad enough; you don’t need your emotional turmoil compounded by confusion and delays as the estate is sorted out. We provide meticulous estate planning services to help avoid probate, and we also counsel estate executors so that estate administration challenges can be resolved promptly.

What does it mean to be “subject to probate?”

When a person dies, the legal process to distribute the assets from their estate begins. This is called probate. In the probate court, a judge oversees the process that allows a representative of the estate, often called the executor, to perform necessary tasks, which include:

  • Making an inventory of the estate
  • Identifying the beneficiaries
  • Paying creditors
  • Paying taxes
  • Distributing assets to heirs

Property in the decedent’s estate is said to be “subject to probate,” because those assets must wait for court authorization before they are released to beneficiaries. When property is subject to probate, it goes under the care of the executor, who has the power to manage the property and a fiduciary duty to make responsible decisions to preserve value for the eventual beneficiaries.

Not all property is subject to probate. Exceptions include:

  • Jointly owned items — Assets, such as real estate and bank accounts, which are owned equally by two people, pass completely to the surviving partner without need of court approval.
  • Assets with named beneficiaries — Some financial instruments, such as 401(k)s and life insurance policies, name the person to receive funds in the event of the owner’s death.
  • Assets placed in trust — Assets in a trust either remain there or get distributed according to the terms in the trust document.

Items listed in a will are subject to probate, as are intestate assets.

Collecting assets subject to probate

The executor must identify all assets and debts in the decedent’s estate. Sometimes it is necessary to take physical possession of items that might be lost or taken by relatives who feel they are entitled to them. Often, this is in direct contravention of the decedent’s intentions, as stated in the will. However, even if named as the recipient in the will, the heir apparent must wait for the probate process to conclude. The court grants the executor the power to take possession of all items in the decedent’s estate.

Why do some people make estate plans to avoid probate?

Depending on the size of an estate and the quality of the financial records, probate can last for several months, or even more than a year. During this time, beneficiaries can be frustrated and even suffer financial hardship because they cannot access the property that’s been left to them. Assets can even lose value during this time. For these reasons, many people choose to create a trust or find another option so that their intended beneficiaries can bypass probate. Our estate planning attorneys design trusts to ensure a quick transfer of wealth at the appropriate time.

Contact an established Oklahoma City attorney for a free consultation on an estate issue

Denker & Zuhdi, PLLC advises clients on estate planning strategies that help them avoid probate and accomplish other goals. We also represent parties in probate proceedings. If you need to establish a trust or settle an estate, schedule a free consultation with one of the experienced and dedicated attorneys at our Oklahoma City law firm. Call us at 405-946-5533 or contact us online today.

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