Intestate Succession in Oklahoma

What happens if you die without a will? Learn about intestacy in Oklahoma

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Intestate Succession in Oklahoma

If you die without a will in Oklahoma, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state “intestate succession” laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Oklahoma.

Which Assets Pass by Intestate Succession

Only assets that would have passed through your will are affected by intestate succession laws. Usually, that includes only assets that you own alone, in your own name.

Many valuable assets don’t go through your will, and aren’t affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples: 

  • property you’ve transferred to a living trust
  • life insurance proceeds
  • funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account
  • securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • payable-on-death bank accounts
  • real estate held by transfer-on-death or beneficiary deed, or
  • property you own with someone else in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety.

These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will.

To learn more about these types of assets, go to the How to Avoid Probate section of Nolo.com or read about Avoiding Probate in Oklahoma.

Who Gets What in Oklahoma?

Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here’s a quick overview:

If you die with: here’s what happens:
  • children but no spouse
  • children inherit everything
  • spouse but no descendants, parents, or siblings
  • spouse inherits everything
  • spouse and descendants from you and that spouse
  • spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property
  • your descendants inherit everything else
  • spouse and at least one descendant from you and someone other than that spouse
  • spouse inherits 1/2 of all property acquired by joint effort during your marriage and splits the remaining intestate property equally with your descendants
  • descendants inherit everything else
  • spouse and parents
  • spouse inherits all the property acquired by joint effort during marriage, plus 1/3 of the remaining intestate property
  • parents inherit everything else
  • spouse and siblings
  • spouse inherits all the property acquired by joint effort during your marriage, plus 1/3 of the remaining intestate property
  • siblings inherit everything else
  • parents but no spouse or descendants
  • parents inherit everything
  • siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents
  • siblings inherit everything
  • The Spouse’s Share in Oklahoma

    In Oklahoma, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living parents or descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you don’t, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property. If you do, they and your spouse will share your intestate property as follows:

    If you die with parents but no descendants. Your surviving spouse inherits all property acquired by joint effort during your marriage, plus 1/3 of the balance.

    Example: Gerry is married to Joe, and her father is still alive. Gerry owns a house in joint tenancy with Joe, and Joe is also the named beneficiary of Gerry’s retirement account. When Gerry dies, Joe automatically inherits the house and any remaining retirement funds; those things are not intestate property. Joe also inherits all the property that he and Gerry acquired together during marriage, such as their cars and personal property. Gerry has $75,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if she had named one. Joe inherits $25,000 worth of that property, and Gerry’s father inherits $50,000.

    If you die with children or other descendants from you and the surviving spouse. Your surviving spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property.

    Example: Bill is married to Karen, and they have two grown children. Bill and Karen own a large bank account in joint tenancy, and Bill took out a life insurance policy naming Karen as the beneficiary. When Bill dies, Karen receives the life insurance policy proceeds and inherits the bank account outright. Bill also owns $400,000 worth of other property that would have passed under a will. Karen inherits $200,000 worth of that property and the two children inherit $100,000 each.

    If you die with at least one descendant who is not the descendant of your surviving spouse. Your spouse inherits 1/2 of all property acquired by joint effort during your marriage, and splits the rest with your descendants.

    Example: Barrett is married to Jed and also has a 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Barrett owns a house in joint tenancy with Jed, plus $200,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if Barrett had made one. When Barrett dies, Jed inherits the house outright, half of all other property he and Barrett acquired together during their marriage, and $100,000 worth of Barrett’ separate property. Barrett’s daughter inherits the other half of Barrett’s marital property plus $100,000 worth of her separate property.

    In Oklahoma, your surviving spouse is always entitled to inherit one of your automobiles. (Oklahoma Statutes § 84‑232.)

    Children’s Shares in Oklahoma

    If you die without a will in Oklahoma, your children will receive an “intestate share” of your property. The size of each child’s share depends on how many children you have and whether or not you are married. (See the table above.)

    For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Oklahoma must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it’s not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.

    • Adopted children. Children you legally adopted will receive an intestate share, just as your biological children do.
    • Foster children and stepchildren. Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted will not automatically receive a share.
    • Children placed for adoption. Children you placed for adoption and who were legally adopted by another family will not receive a share. However, if your biological children were adopted by your spouse, that won’t affect their intestate inheritance.
    • Posthumous children. Children conceived by you but not born before your death will receive a share. (Oklahoma Statutes § 84‑228.)
    • Children born outside of marriage. If you were not married to your children’s mother when she gave birth to them, they may receive a share of your estate if you acknowledged your paternity or your paternity was proved under Oklahoma law. (Oklahoma Statutes § 84‑215.)
    • Children born during your marriage. Any child born to your wife during your marriage is assumed to be your child and will receive a share of your estate.
    • Grandchildren. Your grandchildren will receive a share only if their parent (your child) has died before you do.

    This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney. If you want to read the laws themselves, you’ll find a link to the Oklahoma Statutes at the end of this article.

    Will the State Get Your Property?

    If you die without a will and don’t have any family, your property will “escheat” into the state’s coffers. However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won’t go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, great uncles or aunts, nieces or nephews, cousins of any degree, or the children, parents, or siblings of a spouse who dies before you do.

    Other Oklahoma Intestate Succession Rules

    Here are a few other things to know about Oklahoma intestacy laws.

    • Half-relatives. “Half” relatives usually inherit as if they were “whole.” That is, your sister with whom you share a father, but not a mother, has the same right to your property as she would if you had both parents in common. There is an exception for property you inherited from your ancestors, which must stay in the blood family according to Oklahoma law. (Oklahoma Statutes § 84‑222.)
    • Immigration status. Relatives entitled to an intestate share of your property will inherit whether or not they are citizens or legally in the United States. (Oklahoma Statutes § 84-229.)
    • Someone who causes your death. If another person is criminally responsible for your death, that person will not receive a share of your estate. (Oklahoma Statutes § 84-231.)

    Learn More

    To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled When There is No Will.

    You can find Oklahoma’s intestate succession laws by visiting the website of the Oklahoma Legislature. Choose “Browse Oklahoma Statutes,” then select Title 84, Wills and Succession. Scroll down to find the intestate succession laws, which begin with Section 84-211.

    For more about estate planning, go to the Wills, Trusts & Probate section of Nolo.com.

    Need a lawyer? Search for an experienced estate planning attorney with Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.

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