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The Oregon Probate Process: Our Top FAQs

The Oregon Probate Process: Our Top FAQs

When a loved one passes away, our clients are typically left with many questions concerning their love one’s estate administration and, potentially the probate process. These matters can be complicated, and if not handled in accordance with state laws, may result in lengthy litigation and fees. The following are some of the frequently asked questions we get about the probate process in Oregon:

Q: What is an estate? 

A: The “estate” is all the property the deceased person owned as of their death.

Q: What is probate? 

A: Probate is the legal process that transfers ownership of a deceased person’s property under their Will.

Q: What if there isn’t a Will? 

A: If you die without a Will, your estate still goes through probate, but without your input.  If you die without a Will, the State of Oregon decides who will be responsible for locating and distributing your assets, who gets many of your assets, and—if you have minor children—who will become your children’s legal guardian.

Q: Who pays for the Probate process? 

A: The Personal Representative (aka “executor”) is responsible for the costs of administration on behalf of the estate, but can apply to the Court for reimbursement from the estate at the end of the probate process.

What are the steps of Probate?

  • Petition the Court to Admit the Will and Appoint a Personal Representative. The person seeking to become Personal Representative (“PR”) files a petition with the Court along with a Will (if one exists).  The PR is the person who is responsible for locating all of the assets, paying off any debts, and distributing the assets.  The Court will issue Letters Testamentary (for an estate with a Will) or Letters of Administration (for an estate without a Will), which are the PR’s authorization to act on the estate’s behalf.  If there is no Will, or if the Will doesn’t waive the bond requirement, the Court will require the PR to take out a bond in an amount set by the court.
  • Notify heirs and devisees of death & pending probate administration. The PR must mail notices to certain people informing them of the deceased person’s death and the existence of the probate case.  The required recipients include: heirs of the deceased person (those people who would receive the deceased person’s assets if they didn’t have a Will); devisees of the deceased person (those people named to receive assets under the Will, if there is one); and other people who claim an interest in the estate for various specific reasons outlined in the law (e.g., someone bringing a Will contest).
  • File an Inventory and preserve assets. The PR must make a list and estimate the value of all estate assets: bank accounts, investments, the house, the cars, the furniture, and all of the other things in the house.  Some assets (real estate, business interests) may need to be appraised (at an additional cost charged by an appraiser) to determine their value.  Throughout the probate proceeding, the PR has a duty to preserve and maintain the estate assets. 
  • Search for Creditors. The PR must make a reasonably diligent search for creditors of the estate.  Creditors might include medical providers, Medicare (Oregon DHS), credit card companies, banks, etc.  This search typically includes publishing notice in the newspaper for any unknown creditors. 
  • Pay creditors, expenses & taxes. The PR evaluates all claims against the estate to determine whether they are legitimate and pays the claims that are approved.  The PR also works with a CPA to pay any income taxes that the deceased person owed and any estate taxes.  State and federal estate taxes can be complicated, so the PR often needs to consult with their attorney and the CPA.  Depending on how much is owed, the PR might have to liquidate some assets to generate the cash for those payments.  Expenses might include things such as the costs of preparing the house for sale, CPA fees, attorney fees, and PR fees (the PR may take a fee depending on the value of the estate).
  • Final Accounting & Distributions. When the estate is ready to close, the PR files the Final Accounting to show the Court what has been paid and how the remaining assets are going to be distributed.  Once the Court approves the Final Accounting, the assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries according to the Will (or to the heirs at law if there is no Will). 

Q: How long will probate take? 

A: Depending on the complexity of the estate, the average probate administration ranges from 6-18 months.

Q: What are the costs of probate?

A: The probate filing fee paid to the court ranges from $275-$1,200, depending on the value of the estate.  Most people find the probate process complicated enough that they need to hire a lawyer.  Attorney’s fees for a typical probate can range from as low as $2,000 to upwards of $100,000, depending on the complexity of the estate.  Any bond the Court requires of the PR will also need to be paid.

Q: How do I minimize or avoid all this hassle? 

A: A properly drafted Will prepared by a licensed attorney saves money and time by nominating your chosen PR and providing a clear distribution plan.  Using online websites such as “Legal Zoom” often results in drafting errors, omission of important provisions, and an increase in probate costs due to these errors.  To skip the probate process entirely and distribution of assets after death, you can establish a Revocable Living Trust and transfer your assets into the trust during life.

We Can help.

For 40 years, Gevurtz Menashe has supported families through some of their toughest times—including helping clients establish guardianships and conservatorships. If you are interested in learning more, please call our office at (503) 227-1515 or contact us online, anytime.  

Authored by Kali Jensen, Estate Planning, Gevurtz Menashe. Kali is a member of both the Oregon & Washington State Bar(s) and focuses her practice exclusively on estate planning, planning for incapacity, guardianships, conservatorships, and probate.
*This is general information only and not meant to provide specific legal advice. *