By Dan Barney

Estate Planning and the Law

We are all familiar with the newspaper ads and posts regarding unclaimed property that is held by the state of Oklahoma.

What is unclaimed property? The property includes money or other valuables that have been held by various companies or institutions in the name of an individual who cannot be located.

These assets can include among others funds held by banks, insurance companies, mineral companies, utilities, stock dividends, bond payments; even the contents of abandoned safe deposit boxes is included.

Although the normal advertisements would infer that it is a simple matter to correct such funds – that is not always the case because the state is especially diligent in insuring that the claimant is indeed the rightful owner.

Typically the treasurer requires more intensive requirements for distribution than is required by state law. 60 OS 674.2 defines the requirements for payment. These requirements depend upon the status of the claimant and how the funds were held:

1) If a probate is ongoing and the claimant is the personal representative the money can be paid to the estate.

2) If the Probate is completed the money can be paid consistent with the distribution terms of the probate.

3) If the owner had placed the property in a trust then the money will be distributed according to the terms of the trust and the Treasurer will require a properly verified copy of the trust instrument.

4) If real property is involved it must be distributed under a certified copy of the final probate decree from the probate unless some other distribution method is employed.

5) For smaller estate of $5000 or less a certified copy of a death certificate is required.

6) If the value of the property is ten thousand dollars or less a signed affidavit executed by the claimant stating that the claimant is entitled to receive the property, the reason the claimant is entitled to receive the property that there has been no probate of the estate of the deceased owner that no probate is contemplated and that the claimant will indemnify the state for any loss, including attorney fees, should another claimant assert a prior right to the property.

The statute does provide an overriding clause that the treasurer may require additional reasonable documentation and it is this clause that often leads to additional sometimes burdensome requirements.

In addition the interpretation and application in each case is subject to interpretation by the treasurer.

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