Anyone who’s experienced probate knows how complicated it can be. In worst-case scenarios, there’s a will contest that drags on for months or property in another state that requires an ancillary proceeding. Even in straightforward cases, the executor has to go through a series of legally required steps before the property can go to its named beneficiaries.
In Oklahoma, any small estate with a cumulative value of less than $50,000 (not including real estate) does not have to go through probate, but if you have family members who’ve bought homes and amassed a degree of personal wealth during their lifetimes, the process will be necessary. In this blog, we go through the ways that you can help loved ones prepare their estates for future probate so that there is minimal stress and delay.
Name Beneficiaries for Nonprobate Assets
Non-probate assets are classified as those that have a named beneficiary. Examples include:
- Property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, in which the interest of a deceased owner automatically gets transferred to the surviving owner(s)
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s
- Pay-on-death (POD) bank accounts
- Transfer-on-death (TOD) securities accounts
When the asset owner dies, the property will be made available to the beneficiary without going through probate. All you have to do to claim it is present a death certificate to the bank, insurer, or whatever other entity or person is currently holding the asset.
Create Transfer-on-Death Deeds
Oklahoma’s Nontestamentary Transfer of Property Act allows a real estate owner whose interest in their property is recorded in the County Clerk’s office to name someone else to receive the property on their death without going through probate.
Transfer-on-death deeds can be used to transfer the following assets:
- Real estate
- A home
- Certain oil, gas, and mineral rights
- The exclusive right to drill for or produce these substances
- Rights to royalties from oil, gas, and mineral profits
With transfer-on-death deeds, it is advisable to name an alternative beneficiary because if the named beneficiary dies before the landowner does, probate would have to take place to transfer the property to someone else.
Set Up a Living Trust
Living trusts can be used to hold practically all assets, from bank accounts to cars and real estate. Your family members can go to an estate planning attorney to set up a trust document that transfers ownership of their property into the trust and names themselves as the trustee. When they pass away, the successor trustee (who will also be named in the document) will be able to transfer trust assets to beneficiaries without going through probate.
Meet With an Estate Planning Attorney
Being prepared can help you and your other family members from going through expensive and time-consuming probate difficulties. Collect as much information as possible about the estate and visit an Tulsa estate planning attorney who can review it, point out potential issues (e.g., Grandpa’s name is still on the title) and recommend options.
At Pence Law Firm, our goal is to help you and your family pass on your wealth to loved ones with as little probate involvement as possible. We can guide you through setting up beneficiary designations and arranging property titling so that the transfers go more smoothly during a difficult time. To learn more or speak to an estate planning attorney, call 918-367-8505.