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An overview of probate administration

In the uncertain days and weeks that pass immediately following the death of a loved one, there may be a great deal of confusion and uncertainty. The surviving spouse or loved ones may have very little understanding of the state of the family finances or the true scope of the estate. Knowing what needs to be done is the first step to bringing it all into order through probate administration.

While parts of the process can wait while loved ones mourn their loss, other items must be dealt with in a timely manner to avoid the delay of needed benefits or the penalty of added interest or fees. Each state has its particular rules for probate, and an estate planning attorney may be the best person to consult for information about the specific requirements in Oklahoma. However, the first step is for a spouse or other loved one to file the will or, if no will exists, to petition the court for appointment as estate administrator.

The administrator will be responsible for making an inventory of the estate and consolidate assets as much as possible. The administrator's job also includes paying any lingering bills --including income tax -- and filing an estate tax return if the circumstances warrant. Filing taxes before the deadline is important to avoid severe penalties from the IRS. Then the administrator must keep the estate safe and secure during the waiting period – which is sometimes up to a year – during which creditors can claim any debt. After that time, the administrator can distribute the assets to the heirs and close the estate.

Probate administration is made simpler or more complicated by the amount of planning and preparation done by the deceased. A well-planned estate may have a will or trust, and its documents and accounts will be in order and easy to access. Nonetheless, the complex nature of probate makes it understandable and prudent to seek legal advice and assistance from an Oklahoma attorney no matter how well the estate is planned.

Source: agingcare.com, "What to do with estate when a family member dies", K. Gabriel Heiser, Accessed on Aug. 5, 2017

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