Probate for Small OK EstatesShow Table of Contents
In Oklahoma, small estates can completely bypass probate via small estate affidavit, or simplify it via summary administration.
Small Estate Affidavit
If an Oklahoma estate has a gross value <$50,000, you can use the small estate process to settle the estate with no court involvement.
To use the small estate process, the following conditions must be true:
- The entire probate estate has a gross value <$50K
- At least 10 days have passed since the death
- No petition has already been made to the court to officially appoint a personal representative
In determining the gross value of the estate, you should value assets as of the date of death, and ignore any unsecured debts (but do subtract things like liens and mortgages). Do not include any assets that would not normally go through probate, such as community property with rights of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.
To use the small estate process:
- Prepare a Small Estate Affidavit (see below)
- Pay or arrange for all estate debts and taxes to be paid (perhaps once you collect estate assets)
- Obtain possession of estate assets by presenting the affidavit to current custodians (this affidavit cannot be used to collect real estate)
- Settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, distribute remaining assets)
- If you are transferring a vehicle, submit Form MVC-405 to the Motor Vehicle Department
- If everything goes smoothly, no court involvement will ever be required
You can use this Small Estate Affidavit Form provided by Cleveland County, or create your own.
The small estate affidavit must include:
- The name of the decedent, address, and date of death
- Statements that each of the above requirements are true
- A statement that all taxes and debts of the estate have been paid or otherwise provided for
- A description of the assets being claimed (consider attaching the EstateExec Inventory Report)
- Names and addresses of heirs claiming the assets, and their percentages
- A statement that each claiming inheritor is entitled to payment or delivery of the property in the listed percentages
It is not necessary to try to unify everything into a single affidavit, but that can sometimes be the most efficient.
It seems more impressive to have every inheritor sign the affidavit, and have each signature notarized, but in truth only the person who will actually present the affidavit needs to sign it, swearing that everything is true.
Attach a copy of the death certificate and the will (if one exists).
See OK Stat § 58-393.
Summary Administration (also known as simplified probate) can be used for somewhat larger estates, or if you simply want court involvement so that enforcement and protection are a bit more formalized.
You can use summary administration if you are named as personal representative in the will, or any such people have waived their right of appointment in your favor, and any of the following are true:
- The value of the probate estate is <$200,000
- Or, the decedent died more than 5 years ago
- Or, the decedent resided out-of-state at the time of death
In determining the value of the estate, you should value assets as of the date of death, and subtract any debts. Do not include any assets that would not normally go through probate, such as community property with rights of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.
To settle an estate via summary administration:
- Submit to the court a Petition for Summary Administration (see below)
- The court may require you to obtain a bond
- Upon approval, the court will issue you Letters of Special Administration
- Use your "Letters" to collect estate assets, and then settle the estate in the normal way (pay debts, make distributions)
The petition must:
- State the interest of the petitioner (e.g., named in the will as personal representative, heir, etc.)
- State the name, age, and date of death of the decedent, and the county and state of the decedent's domicile at the time of death
- If a will exists, attach the original or a certified copy, and include a statement that you believe the attachment is the decedent's last will, that you believe the will to have been validly executed, and that after the exercise of due diligence, that you are unaware of any instrument revoking the will. Also state whether the will has been admitted to probate in any other jurisdiction.
- If the decedent died intestate, state that you diligently searched for and failed to find a will
- List the names, ages, and last-known addresses of the administrators, executors, non-petitioning co-nominees, heirs, legatees and devisees of the decedent
- State the probable value and character of the property of the estate and the legal description of all real property owned by the decedent in Oklahoma (consider attaching an EstateExec Inventory Report)
- State whether an application or petition for the appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction
- A statement of the request, which may include a prayer for the court to admit the will (if any) to probate, to appoint the person requested in the petition as personal representative, to determine the heirs, devisees and legatees of the decedent, to approve the final account, to distribute the property of the estate and to discharge the personal representative
In addition to attaching any will, attach:
- A copy of the death certificate
- A signed and notarized waiver from anyone else entitled to serve as personal administrator, stating that they waive their right to appointment
- A signed and notarized waiver from everyone who will inherit, stating that they do not require you to submit to the court an official Final Accounting
See OK Stat § 58-245.
Estate Settlement Considerations
Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any OK Family Entitlements, which typically have priority over everything except expenses of the last illness, funeral charges, and any estate administrations expenses.
Estate debts have priority over most distributions in turn, so you should arrange to have all debts resolved before distributing assets. Unpaid estate creditors have the right to sue heirs for the value of any distributions received using the approaches described on this page.
If estate solvency is uncertain, an executor should consider going through official probate for the increased creditor protection it offers. Alternately, such uncertainty can sometimes persuade creditors to forgive a portion of debts, since they will want to avoid legal expenses as well, and may prefer to get something rather than nothing.
See also Making Distributions.
See also General Probate.