The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Oklahoma offers two probate shortcuts for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, Oklahoma allows the property to be transferred more quickly and with less hassle. In other words, if your estate qualifies as "small," your loved ones may be able to use simplified probate procedures, or even skip probate entirely.
Oklahoma offers a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether. To qualify, the estate (the property the deceased person owned at death) must meet these requirements:
(58 Okla. Stat. Ann § 393.)
Note that not all of the property the deceased person left behind that is subject to probate. Certain types of property don't count, such as:
So even relatively large estates might still qualify as a "small estate" for purposes of the small estate affidavit.
If your estate meets the requirements listed above, your inheritor can sign a simple document under oath, called an affidavit. The small estate affidavit must include certain information, such as statements that the estate fulfills each of the requirements listed above and a description of the property being claimed.
After signing the document (and swearing to its truthfulness) and having it notarized, the inheritor simply presents the affidavit to the person or institution holding the property—for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account. The inheritor will usually also need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate. After that, the person or institution releases the asset. This process skips probate court entirely.
Another probate shortcut that Oklahoma offers is a simplified probate process for small estates, called summary administration. Unlike the affidavit procedure discussed above, summary administration does not allow your survivors to skip probate. However, the probate process is more streamlined than full probate, saving time, probate fees, and potentially lawyer fees.
You can use summary administration in Oklahoma if the value of the entire probate estate (meaning all of the property that the deceased person left behind that is subject to probate) does not exceed $200,000. (58 Okla. Stat. Ann § 245.)
The petition for summary administration must contain information such as:
If there's a will, you'll need to attach it as well.
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo) or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).
For more on Oklahoma estate planning issues, see our section on Oklahoma Estate Planning.