When someone passes away in Oklahoma, the probate court appoints a personal representative to administer their estate. This party, who has a duty to distribute the decedent’s property to all parties with a legitimate interest in the estate, may hire an estate planning attorney to assist them in carrying out all required responsibilities, which are detailed in this blog.
Collecting and Preserving Assets
After being appointed, the personal representative must inventory and preserve all assets that belonged to the decedent. Depending on the type of property, they may have to change locks or make sure that insurance coverage continues. If real estate does not have a clear value, the representative must arrange for an appraisal.
Pay Estate Expenses and Debts
The personal representative must pay all expenses arising from administration of the estate, which includes funeral costs, taxes, and attorney’s fees from the estate. Creditor claims must be made within four months after the notice of probate is published and can be paid without court approval; however, the payment of attorney fees from the estate requires a court order. The personal representative will review all claims made against the estate and pay the ones that are valid.
Create a Final Account
Depending on how the estate is being closed, the personal representative may have to file a final account with the probate court. A final account is a thorough record of all assets and disbursements made while they administered the estate. Even in cases where it is technically not required, a detailed account can protect the personal representative in the event that the distribution or their handling of the estate is disputed.
Distribute the Property
The personal representative is responsible for distributing the estate assets to beneficiaries named in the will or, if the decedent did not leave a will, according to Oklahoma’s laws of succession. In the latter event, they should undertake the distribution with assistance from an experienced estate planning attorney.
Conduct of a Personal Representative
If a loved one appoints you to be personal representative for their estate, you have a duty to act in the best interests of the estate and avoid any conflict of interest or self-dealing. You are generally entitled to reimbursement for any expenses you incur while administering the estate (e.g. court costs and legal fees) and receive a reasonable fee for your services. This amount, which is taxable as income, will vary depending on your background and the complexity of the estate.
Unless otherwise qualified, it is generally a good idea for a personal representative to hire an attorney to assist in the administration of the estate. Probate is a time-sensitive process that requires close supervision and attention to detail.
Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Law Firm
Unless you have experience in administering estates, it’s a good idea to work with an estate planning attorney who can help you successfully complete all responsibilities associated with the role and address any challenges like will contests or missing assets. At Pence Law Firm, P.C., we will provide the legal guidance you need to ensure that your loved one’s estate is distributed the way they would have wanted. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact us today!