We have helped attorneys and individuals from across the country complete ancillary probate proceedings in Oklahoma. We provide services in several central Oklahoma, western Oklahoma, and Southern Oklahoma counties. These areas include: Oklahoma County; Cleveland County; Canadian County; Grady County; McClain County; Pottawatomie County; Lincoln County; Logan County; Garvin County; Caddo County; Comanche County; and, many others. Give us a call and lets discuss how we can assist you with your ancillary probate needs.
What Is Ancillary Probate, and Do I Need It?
Ancillary Probate is a court case to administer an estate which is conducted in a state other than the one in which the deceased person resided at the time of his or her death. It is "ancillary" or "supplemental" to the domiciliary case or proceeding (the probate case in the state in which the deceased person resided at the time of his or her death). Usually, ancillary probate proceedings are necessary where a deceased person owned real estate in another state. In Oklahoma, real estate interests for which an ancillary probate may be necessary include certain oil and gas interests.
Which Case Controls?
One little known fact about having property in multiple states is that the probate laws and courts of the state where real estate is located generally control its disposition. Oklahoma case law and statutory law are clear on the point that Oklahoma law and its courts control the interpretation of wills and their application to Oklahoma real property. Thus, although a will may have been interpreted one way under the laws of the domicile state, it may be interpreted differently under Oklahoma law.
Generally, personal property is administered in the domiciliary probate proceeding. A question which regularly comes up is whether a bank account with an Oklahoma bank is subject to the domiciliary proceeding. Although a bank account may have been owned by the decedent and maintained with an Oklahoma institution, being personal property, it is generally subject to administration in a probate case brought in the decedent's state of residence. Additionally, such an account is generally taxed for estate or inheritance tax purposes in the state of the decedent's domicile.
Different States May Mean Different Dispositions.
As mentioned above, wills can be interpreted differently by different states and their courts. One such area is regarding pretermitted or "left out" children. Under Oklahoma law, a child must be specifically mentioned in a will to effectively disinherit the child and its descendants. If he is just not mentioned or otherwise "left out," he may not have been effectively disinherited. The laws of other states differ on this point. Some states limit benefits to left out children only when the will was written before the child was born or adopted.
So, while the domicile state's interpretation of a will may exclude a child, the same will interpreted under Oklahoma law may allow a child left out of such will (a pretermitted child or pretermitted heir) to seek a share of the decedent's Oklahoma property. However, such rights must be timely asserted, or they may be lost forever.
If you believe you have an interest in an estate involving Oklahoma property, please give us a call. We would be happy to discuss how we can help protect your interests.
Avoiding Oklahoma Ancillary Probate.
Intervivos (Lifetime) Planning -
If you own property in Oklahoma which would be subject to an ancillary proceeding upon your death, you can plan now and avoid the putting your survivors through the process. During your lifetime, you can use many of the same planning techniques used to avoid a domiciliary probate. These include the use of trusts, POD (payable on death) accounts, TOD Deeds, and joint tenancies.
Intervivos trusts generally provide for the transfer of property, without need for probate, after the settlor (trust maker) has died. However, to accomplish this orderly transfer, proper documentation of the trust must be made in the land records. If you are having a trust prepared in the state of your residence, but have Oklahoma property to include in that trust, we can work with your local estate planning attorney, to prepare the proper documents to integrate your Oklahoma property into your plan.
Likewise, bank accounts with a POD (payable on death) designation do not need to be probated. Rather, the account passes to the designated beneficiary by the deposit contract terms.
Joint tenancy property (a special type of property ownership where two or more people own a piece of property and the survivor(s) have the legal right to and thus succeed to the rights of a deceased joint tenant in the jointly owned property) also does not require an ancillary proceeding to clear title. In Oklahoma, title to property held in joint tenancy can be cleared through the preparation and proper filing of an affidavit reciting the fact of the termination of the joint tenancy. We routinely prepare these documents. If you believe this applies to your situation, please contact us. We would be happy to help you resolve title in the most expedient and economical manner possible.
When planning your estate, you should consult with a knowledgeable and reputable attorney, especially when dealing with real estate interests. Seeking such professional advice can make sure your plan is integrated and complete, and that it accomplishes the goals you seek to achieve with the least amount of risk. Give us a call if you have questions about planing for your Oklahoma property interests.
Post Mortem Techniques -
Even after a person is deceased, there are circumstances where an ancillary proceeding can be avoided. If the decedent's interest is a relatively small oil and gas interest, many times the oil and gas producer will reflect the transfer on its records upon submission of an affidavit of heirship or some similar determination of heirship made by a court in the state of the decedent's residence. If this is acceptable, an ancillary probate proceeding may not be needed. However, an affidavit of heirship does not change title to the minerals as reflected in the official county records, unless it is filed for record in the county records and otherwise meets the requirements of the Oklahoma statutes regarding affidavits of heirship.
Did the decedent have only a small Oklahoma bank account (balance under $5,000) and there will be no domiciliary probate? Generally, such small accounts can be transferred to the rightful heirs through the preparation and presentation of a properly drafted affidavit.
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