Probate of Wrongful Death Proceeds

Am I correct that wrongful death proceeds are not assets of the estate, and a “creditor’s claim” for a debt unrelated to the wrongful death cannot encumber the distribution of the wrongful death proceeds in accordance with 12 O.S. § 1053? Decedent died intestate and there are no assets of the estate. Surviving spouse appointed PR.

Answer:
You are exactly correct. Here are some Oklahoma cases: Garrett v. McRee, 201 F.2d 250, 253 (10th Cir. 1953): “The Oklahoma Wrongful Death Statute creates two distinct causes of action- one for injuries to the person such as pain and suffering which inures to the benefit of the estate and is subject to debts of the decedent; the other for damages for wrongful death which inures to the exclusive benefit of the surviving spouse, children, or next of kin, and is not subject to the debts or liabilities of the decedent's estate.” citing Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Young, 1924 OK 394, 231 Pac. 261 (money recovered by administrator does not belong to the estate but belong to the next-of-kin.) Accord: Baltimore Amer. Ins. Co. of New York v. Cannon, 1937 OK 572, 73 P.2d 167 (Syllabus 2 by the Court) (superseded by statute on other grounds in Murg v. Barnsdall Nursing Home, 2005 OK 74, 123 P.3d 11).

Attached is a form we use to get them approved by the probate court.