Probate Process Details
Typical Steps of Probate in Oregon
Step 1: Getting Appointed as Personal Representative
Probate in Oregon starts with a petition to the court to appoint a Personal Representative (sometimes called an executor). The Personal Representative is the person who manages the financial affairs of the deceased person. The Personal Representative will pay the deceased’s bills from the deceased’s assets (not the Personal Representative’s own money) and ultimately will ensure that the heirs or will beneficiaries get their share of the deceased’s estate.
The court gives special documentation called “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration” to the Personal Representative. The Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration make it possible for the Personal Representative to access the deceased’s bank accounts and investment accounts, can find out about the deceased’s debts, sell the deceased’s house and vehicles, and help get the deceased’s retirement accounts and life insurance to the correct beneficiaries.
Usually, a Will names the person the deceased wants to serve as Personal Representative. If someone dies without a Will, Oregon law gives priority to the spouse or the next closest relative to serve as Personal Representative. Any interested person, however, can ask to be appointed as Personal Representative.
Oregon law allows a Personal Representative to be paid for their efforts. The payment is determined by a formula based on the dollar value of the estate.
If the deceased had a Will, part of the first step is for the Personal Representative’s attorney to get the will admitted to the probate court.
In some cases, the court will require the Personal Representative to “post a bond”—essentially to buy insurance to ensure that the assets of the estate are properly used to pay the deceased’s bills and that the remaining assets go to the right heirs or will beneficiaries. A Will often waives the requirement of a bond.
Step 2: Notice to Heirs, Will Beneficiaries, Creditors, and the Public
After the court appoints the Personal Representative, the Personal Representative’s attorney will ensure that notices are sent to the deceased’s nearest next of kin, any will beneficiaries, certain creditors, and the state of Oregon. The Personal Representative’s attorney also will arrange for a legal notice about the probate proceeding to be published in the local newspaper. In Oregon’s probate process, these notices provide a four-month deadline to contest the Will, present a different Will for probate, or file a claim that the deceased owed money to someone.
Step 3: Creating an Inventory
After the court appoints the Personal Representative, the Personal Representative’s attorney will work with the Personal Representative to prepare an Inventory of the estate. An Inventory is a list of higher-value assets (like a house, condominium, or land, vehicles, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, and valuable collections) with their approximate value. The Inventory helps the Personal Representative determine if enough money will exist to pay all the deceased’s creditors and to give any special gifts outlined in the Will. If there is not enough money, Oregon law sets out priorities for what gets paid first. Working with an attorney is very important to make sure that the correct debts get paid first in this situation.
Step 4: Due Diligence Declaration
The Personal Representative’s attorney will work with the Personal Representative to make sure that the deceased’s finances are thoroughly investigated. We provide the Personal Representative with detailed written instructions and a checklist for what must be done. We also meet in person or talk on the phone with the Personal Representative to make sure that everything is properly investigated. Once this review of the deceased’s finances is complete, we prepare a Declaration that the Personal Representative signs that explains to the court what steps were undertaken.
Step 5: Accounting
At the end of the probate court process—and sometimes sooner—we help the Personal Representative prepare an accounting of what happened to the probate assets, what money was received, and how it was spent. We file this accounting with the court and we send a copy of the accounting to the heirs and will beneficiaries. If everyone entitled to inherit agrees in writing, formal accounting can be skipped.
Step 6: Court Permission to Distribute
After the accounting is prepared or waived, we help the Personal Representative get court permission to distribute assets and pay attorney fees and costs. We also make sure everyone signs receipts for what they received. Once all the receipts are filed with the court, we ask the judge to sign a supplemental judgment stating that the Personal Representative’s job is done.
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Our probate attorneys are experienced in areas of law related to estate planning, as well as other related areas including family law, landlord-tenant, debtor-creditor disputes, domestic violence, homicide investigations, and protective proceedings.
22400 SE Stark St. Suite 107,
Gresham, OR 97080
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