Over the past several years, the Oklahoma legislature has taken steps to make the probate process more efficient and less burdensome by expanding the availability of summary administration. Under Oklahoma law, summary administration is available where the deceased’s estate is valued at less than $200,000.00, the deceased lived in a state other than Oklahoma at the time of death or the deceased passed away more than five years ago. Summary administration requires fewer court appearances and generally is completed in 6 to 8 weeks. As a result, attorney’s fees are typically less than in the case of a normal probate.
In addition to summary administration, Oklahoma law permits heirs to claim personal property of the deceased valued below $20,000.00 by presenting an affidavit to the person or entity holding the property. This affidavit must state that the fair market value of the personal property is less than $20,000.00, that no petition for probate has been filed or is pending, that all taxes and debts of the estate have been paid and show the interest of each heir in the personal property.
Finally, with regard to oil and gas rights, Oklahoma law allows the heirs of a mineral interest owner to record an affidavit of death and heirship in the office of the county clerk in the county where the minerals are located. Oklahoma law creates a rebuttable presumption that the facts contained in the affidavit are true as they relate to the death of the deceased and the relationships, family history and heirship set forth therein. Keep in mind, however, that while most energy companies will accept an affidavit of death and heirship for purposes of drilling an oil and gas well, they usually will require a probate prior to paying any royalties.