In Oklahoma mineral such as Oil and Gas are considered real estate. Often individuals would sell the surface rights to their property but keep the mineral rights. They did so because they realized that someday those property interests may become valuable. Sometimes, many generations later oil and gas development occurs, and the decedents need to prove up their inheritance through probate to get paid. Probate is a way to get the royalties paid to you.
What exactly is Probate?
Probate is a legal process where a court determines that someone is deceased and who will receive his or her property after it is administered.
Is Probate Difficult?
A probate case can be very simple with the right attorney. Basically, the client provides information about the person who died, who survived him or her, what property they owned and whether there were any creditors. The attorney prepares the paperwork for the client to review and sign.
Do I have to Appear in Probate Court?
No, except in rare cases. Often the client can receive and return various items by mail. The attorney can handle any appearances. The exception would be if the case becomes contested.
What if my Relative Didn’t Have a Will?
A probate case can be handled if the person did or did not have a Will. If there was no Will, the distributions are determined by Oklahoma intestacy statutes.
How Long Does a Probate Take to Complete?
Often a “summary probate procedure” can be used. This is available if any of the following apply: The person didn’t live in Oklahoma at the time of death; or The person has been dead more than 5 years; or The estate is valued at $200,000 or less.
In these cases, the time-frame is usually 60-80 days depending upon the availability of the court. Otherwise, a standard probate may be required which can take six or more months to complete.
What if the Estate has been Probated in Another State? What is an Ancillary Probate?
If the mineral rights are in Oklahoma, another state’s court does not have authority (jurisdiction) to transfer them. Therefore, and Oklahoma probate is required, even if, there was a probate in another state. Often an Ancillary Probate procedure can be used which shortens the timeline to about 50 days. Procedure is available if the home state probate case is concluded and certain orders were filed there.
How Much Does a Probate Cost?
Most mineral probate cases qualify for a flat rate of $3,400 which includes court costs, publication fees, mailing copying and attorney’s fees. If there are multiple counties where minerals are located, there are additional recording fees of about $30 per county.
I Filed an Affidavit of Heirship, why do I Need a Probate?
In Oklahoma an Affidavit of Heirship can create title in the heirs. However, there are many requirements, the biggest stumbling block but only after it has been recorded at least ten years with the County Clerk were the minerals are located and during that 10-year period not instrument inconsistent with affidavit has been filed of record. Therefore, few companies paying royalties are willing to rely upon an Affidavit of Heirship unless 10 years have passed.
What does Royalty Payments in Suspense or Payments on Hold Mean?
This means that the royalties or other payments have been calculated and set aside until the title of the person entitled to receive them has been established. Often this means a probate. A company may use a Division Order Analyst who determines what “title requirements” are needed to put royalties into “pay status”.
My or My Relative’s Funds are held by the Oklahoma Treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division or listed in the Mineral Owners Escrow Account. How do I claim these?
Oklahoma State Treasurer’s Office/Unclaimed Property (405) 521-4275 or online www.ok.gov/treasurer/Unclaimed_Property/index.html.
They will inform you if a probate or an affidavit is sufficient to claim the funds.
What if I have more than one Estates, can they be joined in a single joint administration case?
Sometimes there is a need to take care of two or more estates in order to get minerals into the name of the rightful heirs. While this may seem like a daunting task, it can often be accomplished in one case. For example, if grandfather owned mineral and died, then his daughter died. Neither had a probate done for their estates. Oklahoma law allows multiple estates to be administered in one case.
In this case the living grandchildren would inherit through their line.
What are the Advantages of Jointly Administered Probate Cases?
- Court Costs: The filing fee for a single or joint probate case is the same.
- Publication Costs: Probate cases require publication. A joint probate is about ½ the cost of filing two separate probate cases.
 The requirement would be order admitting the will to probate and an order distributing the estate from the home state probate proceeding, or if the decedent died intestate, by attaching a duly certified copy of the order appointing the personal representative and an order distributing estate from the home state probate estate. 58 O.S. § 677.