Asked and Answered: Do I need a lawyer to probate a will on a small estate in Oklahoma?

Dear Ms. Allison: I am probating my mother’s will. Do I need a lawyer to probate a will on estate less than $100,000 in Oklahoma? Anonymous in Woods County, OK

Dear Anonymous:

Legally, no, a lawyer is not required for this. Wisely, yes, yes, yes!

You can figure it all out – if you are sharp and dedicated to doing a lot of research, form-filling, learning the court filing system, figuring out and tracking procedures, and documenting.

First, of course, you have to get yourself appointed as Executor. So, you must figure that out to even begin.

You can read about and follow the process from reading the statutes, or maybe you can read a Do-It-Yourself(er’s) blog. But, do be careful, because if you misinterpret anything or take the advice of someone who may not actually know the law, you could be held liable for any mistakes made.

If you don’t get the first part right (getting appointed as Executor), you could find yourself doing things you have no legal authority to do. For some, without the authority, you will not be permitted to complete the task. Others, you might complete but they won’t hold up, if challenged on the basis of lack of authority to do them. Maybe there is no one to challenge you. Still, you can make errors that cost you a big income tax or gift tax bill if you don’t do them in certain ways.

The reality is that few people would even consider taking an engine out of a car, dismantling it to fix an issue, and putting it back together. But it is amazing to me how many people think nothing of trying to handle a legal matter themselves, when it requires way more education than taking a car apart. It would be silly for you to attempt this without many months of study, if not years. The plain fact of the matter is, you do not know what you do not know.

Save yourself time, money, your inheritance, and stress. Hire a lawyer skilled in the area of probate. By spending an appropriate amount to have it done right and expediently, you can rest easily in the long run. Then, hire an estate planning attorney to review several means available to assure that your children’s inheritance is transferred to them without the need for probate.

Gale Allison, Attorney

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