Small Estate Affidavits – An Alternative to Probate

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Two Oklahoma Statutes offer an alternative to probate for small estates valued under $50,000. If you have a valid will, these provisions will not apply to you even if your estate is under $50,000. However, those without a will and an estate under $50,000 can take advantage of these provisions and avoid the probate process with the use of a Small Estate Affidavit. Small Estate Affidavits can be filed by successors in Oklahoma to claim personal property like bank accounts, personal property, life insurance, stocks, or vehicles of decedents who owned property in the state and died without leaving a last will and testament. The Small Estate Affidavit does not cover real estate, like homes and mineral rights, However a separate small estate affidavit covers vehicles like boats, cars, and trucks.

Different Types of Small Estate Affidavits

There are three different types of Small Estate Affidavits: one for financial accounts worth $50,000 or less, one for vehicles only, and another for personal property, like things around the home. Successors can file a Small Estate Affidavit as long as the total value does not exceed $50,000. This allows family members to avoid the time and expense of probate court by filing an affidavit.

Small Estate Affidavits for Financial Accounts

The first type of “Small Estate Affidavit” allowed in Oklahoma is one for financial accounts worth a total of $50,000 or less. This affidavit is authorized by 6 OS § 906. Banks, credit unions and savings and loan associations are permitted under Oklahoma statutory law to pay out bank accounts under Fifty-Thousand Dollars ($50,000) upon affidavit. The account must be in the name of a sole individual (not two persons) and have no beneficiary designated. An original certified death certificate must be presented along with an affidavit, and the affidavit must establish the time and place of death and residence of the decedent. Also, the affidavit must state that the decedent did not leave a will. If the decedent left a will, probate will be necessary. The affidavit must set out the names of the heirs of the decedent. The affidavit must be signed and sworn to by at least one of the known heirs of the decedent.

Small Estate Affidavits for Vehicles

The Small Estate Affidavit for vehicles in Oklahoma requires a second form called the No Administrator Affidavit, which allows vehicles valued below $20,000 owned by a person who has passed away to be transferred to successors. Along with a certified copy of the death certificate, successors can avoid probate and claim and sell a deceased loved one’s vehicles. The DMV Also has a Small Estate Affidavit that you can find linked here.

Small Estate Affidavits for Property

Oklahoma also allows an affidavit to take the place of probate for the distribution of tangible personal property (property other than money or land) or an instrument evidencing a debt, obligation, stock, chose in action, or stock brand belonging to the decedent upon the presentment of an affidavit. This form of affidavit is authorized by 58 OS § 393. The limit is also $50,000, so any debt or personal property worth more than that must go through probate. Any person indebted to the decedent is authorized to accept the affidavit and make the distribution, so this affidavit can also be used for creditors as well as heirs at law. Anyone who is a successor to the decedent may sign the affidavit. The affidavit must state: (1) the fair market value of property located in this state owned by the decedent and subject to disposition by will or intestate succession at the time of the decedent’s death, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed Twenty Thousand Dollars; (2) No application or petition for appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction; (3) Each claiming successor is entitled to payment or delivery of the property in the respective proportions set forth in the affidavit; and All taxes and debts of the decedent’s estate have been paid or otherwise provided for or are barred by the statute of limitations.

An original certified death certificate must be presented along with the affidavit. This affidavit would be useful for the transfer of household contents, a vehicle, a stock brokerage account or the transfer of private or public corporate stock which does not exceed $50,000.

Limitations to the Small Estate Affidavit

The major limit to Small Estate Affidavits in Oklahoma is real estate. The Small Estate Affidavit cannot be used for any type of real estate – surface rights or mineral rights. A probate has to happen for any type of surface rights that needs to be transferred after the death of the owner (such as a home). There are some ways to get mineral rights transferred without a probate, but those are limited as well.

Contact Skillern Law Firm Today

If you have small assets and are wanting to avoid probate, contact the attorney at the Skillern Law Firm, PLLC. The attorney at Skillern Law Firm can help you get these small assets out of probate by drafting a valid Small Estate Affidavit that can keep you out of probate. Contact us today at 918-805-2511 or skillernlaw@gmail.com.

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