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.
Only assets that pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate, and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.
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.
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|
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, siblings, 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.)
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, whether or not you are married, and whether your spouse is also their parent. (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.
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.
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, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, or cousins. If your estate goes to the state, it is used to support schools.
Here are a few other things to know about Oklahoma intestacy laws.
To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled If There's 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.