Here is a general overview of the probate process for Oregon.  Washington has some similarities but is substantially abbreviated, as noted below.

Probate requires the appointment of a personal representative (referred to as the executor in certain states).  If the decedent dies testate, the personal representative ultimately appointed is usually the first nominee named in the decedent’s will. If the decedent dies intestate, the personal representative is usually the relative or friend who wins the race to the courthouse and files first.

For testate estates (i.e., the decedent died with a will), the will is proved and admitted by the court. Proof is usually through an affidavit of attesting witnesses to the will. See ORS 113.055(1).

Within 30 days of the appointment of the personal representative, the heirs, devisees, and persons described in ORS 113.035(8) and (9) are notified of the decedent’s death and the pending probate administration.

The personal representative identifies and values the assets of the estate and, within 60 days of appointment, files an inventory with the court. ORS 113.165.  This is not required in Washington if the personal representative requests “nonintervention” powers, which is the typical approach.

The personal representative must make a reasonably diligent search for creditors of the estate and provide them notice of the probate proceeding. ORS 115.003.  Unidentified creditors are notified by publishing notice of the personal representative’s appointment once per week for three weeks in a local newspaper of general circulation. ORS 113.155(1).

Each creditor must file a claim against the estate for debts owed by the decedent no later than 30 days after personal notice is mailed or four months after the newspaper notice is published, whichever occurs later. ORS 115.005(2). If the claim is not filed within the applicable period, the underlying debt is either subordinated to timely filed claims or barred. ORS 115.005(3).  A different procedure applies to mortgage loans and other secured debt.

As appropriate, the personal representative liquidates the decedent’s property and pays allowed claims and expenses of administration.

The personal representative files any required state or federal income and death tax returns and pays any taxes due. See ORS 114.305(17).

After completion of the foregoing steps, the personal representative files a final account with the court.  ORS 116.083(3).  In Washington, the personal representative files a very short document known as “declaration of completion” in lieu of a final account.

After court approval of the final account, the assets of the estate are distributed to the beneficiaries under the will or the heirs at law. ORS 116.113.  In Washington, court approval is unnecessary to make the final distribution (or interim distributions).

Caveat: Probate is deceptively complicated. While generic probate filings can be routine, there are ample opportunities for malpractice. If claims are not disallowed within 60 days, they are deemed allowed. ORS 115.135(1). Death taxes must be paid within nine months after death or there will be substantial penalties (usually 5% per month). See, e.g., ORS 118.260(4); IRC §6651(a)(1).

Death taxes may have to be apportioned among various classes of beneficiaries.  It may be necessary to select fiscal taxable years so that excess deductions are transferred to the beneficiaries under IRC §642(h), and not lost. It may be necessary to fund tax planning trusts based on a formula clause in the will. Although not technically part of the probate, tax guidance on distributions from IRAs is often necessary.  This list could go on for pages.

Supervision by an experienced probate lawyer with a tax background is recommended.


  1. Our father died 10-7-12. Our brother, the Executor, doesn’t seem to have taken action. Nobody has received notice of probate. Is there a time limit for filing a copy of the will so that probate can begin? There are seven children involved.

    • Lygia,

      Your situation is more common than it should be. It usually occurs when the named executor is living in the decedent’s house (rent free) and does not want to change the status quo. If you have asked your brother to probate the will, and he refuses, you should file a copy of the will with the court, accompanied by a petition that requests the court to appoint you executor. You should also include as exhibits copies of the letters (or emails) you have written to your brother urging him to commence a probate, along with any written refusals from him. You should also include in the probate petition a statement to the effect that you are filing because your brother won’t, and are filing a copy of the will (rather than the original) because your brother has the original and refuses to act. If easily done, you might also get written consent from your other five siblings whereby they approve of your appointment as executor. You will probably need an attorney to make this happen, but you can warn your brother and try one last time to get him moving.


  2. To whom it may concern
    My adoption father recently pass away in Lafayette OR, I was told by him with my two sisters present, his estate was to be divided three ways each will equal shares. Since his demise on April 23, 2013 the middle sister Robin Ann Smith who resides on the property refuses to show or discuss the will. I live on SSI and need advice in this matter.what do I need to do

    • Randie,

      First of all, I am sorry you lost your dad.

      Unfortunately, your situation is not unusual. The child residing on the property is seldom interested in changing the status quo.

      Your father’s oral statement to the three of you has little legal significance. What matters is whether he signed a will. If he did, your inheritance is controlled by his will. If he didn’t, your share is 1/3 (assuming you were legally adopted). There are several avenues for gaining access to the will. First, you might ask your other sister if she knows whether your father has a will. He may not. If you are able to establish that he has a will, you should give Robin written notice that she is obligated to commence a probate proceeding. If she refuses to either commence a probate proceeding or give you a copy of the will, you might consider filing an intestate probate proceeding based on the assumption that your father had no will. You would need to disclose to the court whether you have been told that your father has a will, and that you have given your sister a reasonable amount of time to probate it. This will force your sister to either file the will with the court, or go along with an intestate probate proceeding. I know this sounds self-serving, but you will get better results with a lawyer. Your sister is more likely to behave. Or she may decide to hire a lawyer, who will tell her she must probate the will or disclose that there is no will. I am sorry your sister is acting this way.


  3. It has been 7 weeks since I contacted an attorney about my fathers estate (he died in March). I am the named personal rep in his will.
    Anyway- what was told to me was a simple and quick process has been anything but.
    I still don’t even know if the probate process has begun. I’m still waiting to receive my ‘letters’ so I can access my fathers accounts. Meanwhile, I’m paying his household bills and my two brothers are calling me daily check the status.
    The attorney hasn’t returned my calls.
    I’m at a loss of what to do. I don’t know if there is a standard timeline for this process-am I being impatient or unreasonable ? He has the original will.


    • Sue,

      The delays you describe are unacceptable. So are the ignored phone calls. Either your lawyer is too busy with other projects or inexperienced. Absent unusual circumstances, it takes about 2 hours to prepare the court filings necessary to appoint an executor. These are standard forms. Once the papers are signed by the executor and filed with the court, it takes roughly a week or two to get letters testamentary in the mail. Some counties are slower than others. Washington County, in particular, can be terribly slow and unresponsive. But that is normally not more than an extra week of delay. Without letters testamentary, you can do nothing; everything is paralyzed. I would not be happy either.


      • Thank you for the quick response.
        I’m going to go to make an appointment to see what the hold up is.
        I’m anxious to get the letters testamentary to get this process going. Thanks again.

  4. Dave,
    I am the co trustee of my parents’ trust and my step brother is the other co trustee. He is living in their house and has been taking over everything. Most of the assets were never transferred to the family trust and will have to be probated. He has been trying to get me to sign off any rights to the trust because he wants to probate it himself. He has already hidden assets away in a bank account somewhere. He has stopped talking to me and I learned from an apt. Management company that he has opened the probate and is trying to get them to send him the monthly checks using this personal representative appointment. As co trustee do I have the right to all of the probate documentation? Can he now legally seize that money and use it as he sees fit?

    • Sharon,

      You have lots of issues.

      Who is named as personal representative under the will? If it is your stepbrother (and not the two of you), he alone is authorized to probate the will. But that doesn’t prejudice you. I suspect the trust is the sole beneficiary under the will, so each co-trustee is an interested party entitled to all probate information. As personal representative, he should establish an account in the name of the estate and deposit all rent checks into that account. He cannot pocket any of the money. If your brother refuses to send you the probate documents, you can get them at the courthouse. An easier tactic would be to call his lawyer and tell him that you will file with the court to remove your brother as personal representative if he breaches his duty to provide you statutory notices. In all events, most states require the personal representative to provide a full accounting at the end of the probate. Some states do not require this unless a beneficiary requests. Your “homework” should be to ask your brother’s attorney for any probate papers that have been filed, or get them at the courthouse if the attorney refuses. Second, you should request the court to compel your brother to provide a full accounting (when he closes the estate) if the state laws would not otherwise require him to do so.

      Good luck.


  5. My Great Aunt passed In April, I received a letter from my aunt’s (Named PR) attorney stating, she passed without a will and that I am one of the Heirs. Do I need to do anything to be an heir, file any forms ect.; or will the probate process just go through, and whatever remains, after all fees, debts ect are taken, go to the heirs?

    • Katie,

      You do not need to do anything — except wait patiently for your check.

      Most states give notice to all heirs at the commencement of the probate proceeding so that they have an opportunity to come forward with information about the existence of the decedent’s will. Also, at least in Oregon, an heir can file a “request for “notice” with the court and cause the PR to send the heir a copy of everything the PR files with the court.


  6. Does Oregon have a law allowing a personal representative to live rent free in the deceased house? The PR is an heir to the house, but actions such as this appear to benefit the PR personally which I thought was illegal.

  7. My father in law passed away on June 30th. 2 wks before he passed away he discussed the will with family members. His wife has not turned the will over to probate its been well over 30 days. My sister in law also saw the will briefly. All the siblings were named in the will. His wife mentioned that she couldn’t get money out his bank acct and she was going to have to hire an attny.. in re to the will. My husband asked to see the will and she said he could come over and see it. She was going to turn the will into probate in which the date would have been around June 26th or so.. Now its Aug. 9th and the will is in her possession but no one elses. ‘What are the consequences not turning the will into probate within the 30 days. This is not a small amount of assets. How do get her to turn the will over to probate if she wont let anyone read it.??

    • Dear Abby,

      This is a common problem without a perfect solution. Second marriages always seem to trigger these kinds of issues.

      ORS 112.810(1)(f) says that a person holding a decedent’s will shall, within 30 days after learning of the decedent’s death, deliver the will to a court having jurisdiction or to a personal representative named in the will. Since she is the personal representative and has the original will, she has fully complied with ORS 112.810(1)(f) and is not required to file it with the court.

      There is no requirement under Oregon law that she provide a copy of the will to you, and there is no deadline for probating the will. Fortunately, it appears some of the decedent’s assets cannot be transferred without a probate, so she will have to probate the will if she wants the assets. I have not done this, but I suppose you could commence an intestate probate proceeding, and state that the will must have been revoked (since the wife won’t produce it), which would force the wife to probate the will. Once a probate is commenced, the will is made public and all beneficiaries and interested parties are given notice.

      Transparency is the best policy. The wife is creating hard feelings from the outset by refusing to share information. It would be a good development if she hired a lawyer, since he or she would advise her to retain a lawyer and probate the will.


    • Adrian,

      Assuming there are probate assets, you should file a petition with the court to be appointed executor. This will allow you to distribute the assets to yourself.


  8. What happens in Washington State if an estate is probated intestate and either during the probate procedure or after the distribution of the estate a valid executed will is found?

    • Mollie,

      I haven’t had this occur yet in Washington, but I think you would file the standard petition to commence a testate probate proceeding, probably with the same case number and without an additional filing fee. New notices, etc. will need to be filed.


      • Thanks for your reply. What would happen if the estate has already been distributed intestate before the properly executed will was found?

  9. My wife’s aunt recently died there in Oregon. Her husband predeceased her by over a year. They have a revocable living trust agreement (to which each transferred assets via a will). The trust says “upon the death of the survivor of us, our Trustees shall then distribute our properties in the following manner:” It then says that if [the husband] is the last surviving Trustee /Beneficiary then certain assets will be distributed to named individuals. If [aunt] is the last surviving Trustee/Beneficiary the other assets will be distributed to my wife and her mother [aunt’s sister]. One reading is that since husband died first everything passes through the aunt’s distribution, but we are certain that is not what they intended. Rather they intended that the distribution follow both the husband’s wishes for his named property adn the aunt’s wishes for her named property. How will Oregon courts handle this situation and how do we address this from long distance?

    • Dave,

      I would be surprised if the heirs of the last surviving spouse “take all,” since that would be an arbitrary manner of favoring one class of beneficiaries over another. The trust should read that each class of heirs gets one-half at the aunt’s death. I am guessing that the husband’s half was allocated to a “subtrust” at his death, and that this subtrust passes at the aunt’s death to the husband’s heirs. If you can email me the trust (, I can give you a quick analysis of how it plays out. Dave

  10. can a home left to me TOD outside the will and non probateable, be transfered to my name and listed for sale immediatly if the household furnishing are to be inventoried by the personal representive and eventually divided between myself and 1 other benficary?

    • Doug,

      The home automatically became yours at the instant of death, and was automatically transferred to you (by operation of law) at that time. Except for recording a death certificate, no further transfer documentation is needed. You can list the home immediately. The PR will have plenty of time between the listing date and the closing of the sale to deal with the personal property.


      • the answer s only partly correct the new rulng on TOD for oregon state that the real estate that is TOD must be held open to creditors for 18 months instead of the usual 4 months before it can be exempt from creditors, it could essentailly be sold but it seeems it would be impossible to get title insurance and who would buy a proerty that was still in probate? senate bill 815

        • Gary,

          If the decedent recorded a transfer on death deed, you are correct that creditors have 18 months to present claims to the transferee. However, I am told that title insurance companies are usually willing to insure title prior to the expiration of the 18 month period. So long as a title insurance company will insure title, a buyer should have no reluctance to purchase.


  11. My wife has died. I filed a small estate probate in Multnomah county. Recently I received the forms back as a package with a stamp from the circuit court of Oregon on the back. Is this what I need to close her bank account? Everything else is paid or accounted for.

  12. mother recently died, a freind of hers showed up with a newly drafted will less than 5 months ago it was done right after she had a stroke? the will s completely differant than the will she had completed less than 2 years ago, included are this friend as personal representitve as well a beneficary and also his wife is a beneficary, this seems very strange to our family as this freind had also been the cuase of some very poor financial advice in which my mother mortgaged a paid for home, on this freinds recomendations, and then this friend sold my mother 145k worth of vacation packages at age 81! we have recently found that this friend had also made the appointments with the attoreny and took my mother thier. as a family we feel this personal is not only unethical in his buisness practices but has exerted undue influence over my mother as well, and the fact that him and his wfe are now beneficaries of the will and my only brother who had voiced strong objections to this individuals constant presence and knowledge of my mothers fnancial and personal affairs, has been cut out completely. this person is not an attorney or financail professinal, had met my mother shortley before my father died at a retirement center functions promoting vacations, after my father died this individual was a constant presence in my mothers life, do we have any recourse to challange this individuals authority and thier portion of the estate they have been left due to this new will, attorney who drafted will wont speak with us.

    • Ron,

      You should file a will contest (on grounds of undue influence) immediately after the “friend” files with the court to be appointed personal representative. The siblings “on your side” can pool funds to pay for the legal fees. If you prevail, your fees will be reimbursed by the estate. Depending on the severity of the undue influence, the court may decide to compel the friend to reimburse the estate for the additional attorney fees caused by his meddling in your mother’s affairs. You may or may not have a claim against him for elder abuse.


  13. To whom it may concern,
    My mother passed away some years ago and she had a house that me and my brother grew up in. I was recently contacted by my brothers wife’s attorney stating that my brother had passed away and that there was no living will for my mother to be found so therefor the house now belongs to me and my brothers wife. The house has been being rented out since before my mother and brother have passed and since my brother has passed the wife has been collecting the rent money for the house. The wife’s attorney had told me that I am entitled to half of the money as well as half of the maint. costs as well. The wife has not offered me anything nor told me of any expenses for maint. There were suppose to be probate proceedings getting started but as of yet nothing has been done.
    Where do I stand in this matter?

    Thank you,

    • Mark,

      In general, your sister-in-law’s attorney is probably correct. Under your brother’s will (or the laws of intestate succession, if he had no will), a half interest in the house probably passed to his wife. Thus, although title to the house is still in your mother’s name (assuming there was no probate proceeding), you and your sister-in-law effectively own the house in equal shares. You are entitled to one-half of the net income on the property, and your sister-in-law should account to you for what she has received.

      I recommend you try to talk your sister-in-law into selling the house so that the two of you can disentangle. You may or may not have to commence a probate proceeding for your mother’s estate (to establish the chain of title to the house), depending on the value of the house.


  14. Hi
    I have a question about the probate process. I received a packet of papers from the attorney of my uncles estate. I can’t figure out when distribution will be made. One of the papers says that anyone whom object to the will has until the 26th of December of this hear to do so. After trobat dates what happens
    Tthank you

    • Kristin,

      In general, you have four months after the personal representative is appointed to contest (i.e., challenge, or try to invalidate) the will. I suspect December 26 is the last day of the four month period. You may still be months away from getting distributions, depending on the remaining tasks the personal representative must complete. Will any real estate be sold? Must final personal income tax returns be filed? (Probably.) An attorney will usually avoid giving a firm distribution date because a number of milestones are out of the attorney’s control and may cause delays.


  15. I lost my mother this past January. My mother did not leave much of anything behind. I filed a small estates affidavit in Oregon and have taken care of all her accounts, creditors, paperwork, etc. She did not leave a will, so as the eldest child of four, I took on this responsibility. I recently received a settlement check from a worker’s compensation case that was owed to my mother. I have tried to cash the check and distribute the money to each of the four children in our family. The bank will not cash the check. They say that I need to be the representative of the estate. When taking on these duties, it was my understanding that is what I became. I am listed as the affiant on the small estates affidavit. Are these two different things? Is there something else I must do to be granted this title? If so, where do I find these forms?
    Thank you in advance for your help!

    • Kori,

      Banks are difficult. If the settlement check is listed on the small estate affidavit I don’t see how the bank can refuse. It is usually easier to make a deposit through an ATM rather than cash a check in person. You may want to sign your name to the check with the phrase “small estate affiant” after your signature, and then deposit it in an ATM. Another alternative is to do another small estate affidavit and list the check. Dave

  16. My stepmother passed away 1 month ago – her will left the house to me and my sister, everything else to her daughter (the PR). ‘Everything else’ probably amounts to little. The house had been paid off ($200k) but a reverse mortgage was taken out some years ago. This is in Oregon. Does this need to go thru probate? Does the house need to be sold? What part does the mortgage company play? Can the house be cleaned up? thx.

    • Brian,

      This probably needs to go through probate, although you may be able to get by with a small estate affidavit if the house is worth less than $200k. Before you dive into probate, it might be useful to determine if the balance owed on the reverse mortgage is nearly the same as the value of the property. If it is, you should let the house be foreclosed, since the net proceeds to you would be nominal. I have not seen the reverse mortgage contract, but I suspect you are required to pay off the mortgage or sell the home shortly after your stepmother’s death. If you don’t do this, the mortgage company will foreclose. You should clean up the house before you sell it, but only if the sale is likely to result in net proceeds passing to you. If the net proceeds will be nominal, I would let the mortgage lender worry about preparing the home for sale.


      • Saw a lawyer and decided we could just do a Small Estate Affidavit instead of probate. House minus debt is about $40k and personal property maybe $5k. There are a few creditors seeking money – cable co. won’t cancel the service with a large fee, stereo not paid for, etc. Is there a period of time where creditors could still make claims on the estate?

        • Brian,

          In general, creditors have four months after you file the affidavit to present claims. See ORS 114.525(12).


          PS – The gross value of the house (not the equity) is the relevant value for determining if a small estate affidavit may be used.

          • How do you know it is gross value? The statute says fair market value of the estates’ interest not taking into account “liens and other debts.” Isn’t a mortgage an interest in the property rather than a debt?

  17. I am the Personal Representative for my wife’s mother’s estate. The gross value of the estate is approximately $120,000 with five heirs. From what I can find, the estate itself is not subject to an estate tax. My question is, are the individual heirs of the estate liable for some sort of tax and do I need to provide 1099’s?

    • Dave,

      The short answers are no and no. In general, an inheritance is “free money.” IRA distributions are a big exception to this rule, since they are subject to income tax when withdrawn.


  18. my mother recently passed …she put everything she owned in trusts and… pod… her bank accounts..her estate is probably worth less than 50 thousand dollars..with her cars and her meager household contents

    Is there a dollar limit on filing would one proceed in this situation

    • Stanley,

      I suspect probate is not needed. Assets in a trust pass free of probate. So do payable on death accounts. A one page affidavit can be used to withdraw bank accounts less than $25,000. A DMV affidavit can be used to transfer a vehicle. Thus, you should be able to administer the estate without filing with the court to initiate probate. Dave

      • We have developed another problem..My mother gifted me the house she was living in and the farm that surrounded the house..93 percent gift from mom and the remaining 7 percent is in my fathers trust…

        my sister is pr of moms estate..she change the locks on the house and locked me out she says for 9 months to a year till moms stuff is probated..she gave keys to my brothers that live far away and none to me. I live on the property

        can she do this..according to the probate court she hasn’t been appointed anything yet..i am sure she is trustee of dads trust now

        what can i do

        • Stanley,

          If you are the legal owner of the house, there is a lot you can do about your sister’s actions. Was the deed vesting the house in your name recorded before your mother died? If so, I would hire a locksmith and take possession of the house. If your sister enters the house without your permission, I would call the police, since she is trespassing. Make sure you have a copy of the recorded deed to the house, so that you can show it to the police officer and locksmith.


          • I have a similar problem..My wife and i purchased a house 33 years ago..we put 25000$ down on the wifes inheritance..the i did something really dumb..i let my father talk me into paying off the rest of the mortgage if i worked a number of years for him..he was in ill health at the time so i agreed..he gave a option on the rest of the mortgage to get the house back as he had it deeded to himself…he would not allow us to exercise the option later when we wanted too
            Then he said he would leave it to us in his will..he lied..he left it to my sister..what are our options ..we did all the maintenance and repairs out of our pockets..what can we take with us when we leave ..the letter gives us 60 days to vacate..we never received our 25000$ back..the option is still attached to the wife has been crying all week ..we are old and way past moving again..probate began a week ago..i made a mess

          • Mike,

            Your email is a little hard to follow. It sounds like you transferred your house to your father in exchange for him paying off the mortgage. What I don’t know is the “deal” concerning your $25,000 down payment. Did he also promise to deed the house back to you if you worked for him? And you worked for him and he did not deed it back?

            You probably have a claim against the estate based on a contract to make a will. Or maybe a claim for unjust enrichment. I gather your sister has no intention to make things “right?”


  19. My Dad had died on 12/09/13 in Astoria, OR. I’m his only daughter. I am now in the probate period and have a question regarding donations. When my Dad passed, I had gone to the Food Bank and local animal shelter with donations from the Estate. (I wasn’t appointed yet). So now, I am doing the Inventory for the Court and was wondering do I list donations I have done and would like to continue doing in the future on the list? And am I suppose to claim these donations on my father’s tax filing, my tax filing, or neither. Your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Donna,

      You don’t have authority to make donations to charities or distributions to yourself until the final account is approved and the estate is closed. If the court finds out, you will be thoroughly scolded. You should not make any more donations to charities at this time, since they are unlawful.

      The tax analysis is interesting. I think the most persuasive interpretation of the facts is that a distribution of money was made from the estate to you, and you used the funds to make charitable donations. Thus, the charitable contribution deduction will be taken on your personal income tax return.


      • Thank you for your quick reply. I won’t be making any more donations until probate is completed then.
        But, as stated above, “As appropriate, the personal representative liquidates the decedent’s property and pays allowed claims and expenses of administration”.
        So now I’m not sure what is appropriate to liquidate during the probate process. Am I only allowed to sell items?

        • Donna,

          You have complete flexibility. You can sell everything or you can hold everything. But if you don’t sell anything, you may have to make loans to the estate so that you can pay claims and costs of administration.


  20. My father just passed away 3 days ago. Suicide. I am devastated. I live in another state, he lived in Oregon. He lived in a travel trailer renting a space for it. The only thing he owned is the trailer and a car. Trailer is still owing a couple of payments. He has bank accounts as well although I don’t know balances.
    My uncle has already gone through dad’s things and found a will naming me sole beneficiary. The uncle has tried to say he will do this and that, inventory blah blah. I told him to stop and I will come deal with it. This uncle has not spoken to my father in about 5 years and they lived in the same town. Now he wants to take everything over and I am saying NO and changing locks on the trailer and car because the keys have mysteriously disappeared.

    What should be my next logical step? I figure I need to secure an estate attorney there in Oregon. Do I have to sell the trailer or can I keep both the trailer and the car? Will it need to go through probate? I have already made arrangements with the landlord to keep paying lot rent and I can leave trailer there as long as I want or need.

    • Mick,

      I am sorry you lost your father.

      Under Oregon law, you can transfer a travel trailer or motor vehicle without a probate. Just use the DMV inheritance affidavit. See Along the same lines, there is a one page affidavit you can provide a bank to withdraw your father’s bank account. (I am assuming you are the only child, or that your siblings will join in the DMV affidavit or bank affidavit.)

      You need not sell either asset. The is no estate tax or income tax.


      • Oh my!! Thank you so much David C. Streicher! That is exactly what I needed. You saved me a bundle of hassle. Appreciate you so much. And yes, I am the only child and there is no spouse. He had been single for at least 34 years.

  21. I am a beneficiary of my fathers disclaimer trust..i want a copy of his do i go about getting a mother passed and i received a letter from a attorney saying i could request a copy..i requested ..nothing has happened.

    i did get a copy of my fathers will and a letter….ORS 130.733 notice of proposed trustee action..nothing more..i dont think that constitutes a i wrong

    • I suspect the will contains a “disclaimer trust.” You should look through the will and look for the word “disclaimer trust.” I suspect one or two pages of the will contain the terms of the disclaimer trust.

  22. I sold a house to a widow in October 2013 and carried the paper. She was the only person listed on the trust deed. She made only 3 payments and then died unexpectedly in mid January. She left no will.

    Her only child, an adult son, had been living in the house with her. He has no income and originally said he would move out right away but does not seem to be making any effort to do so. He also says he cannot afford probate.

    Those mortgage payments were my chief source of income. What is my best course of action to get the house back into my name so that I can rent or sell it?
    Your answer is appreciated. Thank you.

    • Carole,

      You need to foreclose the deed of trust. You can probably puchase the property at the foreclosure sale for the amount of the debt. Alternatively, if the son will cooperate, you can ask the executor to sign a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Does the estate have assets? In lieu of foreclosing, you might be able to make a claim against the estate for the balance owed.


      • I will try and work with the son to start probate so he can sign a deed in lieu. Failing that, I will start the foreclosure process since the estate has little, if any assets. Again, thank you for your help.

  23. I have a problem 9 years after my husband’s death. His estate did not go through the probate process, since I thought that all assets were held jointly or with me as the beneficiary. With this one exception- he had 3 individual accounts benefitting our children for the Georgia College 529 Plan. For some reason, no beneficiary was named. I have contacted the plan several times and have finally gotten to the point that they need Letters Testamentary appointing me as the personal representative of his estate. He had a will. Is this something that can be done 10 years after his death and can I do this without an attorney, since the sum of the accounts is around $2,000. If I had to retain an attorney, what would this cost? Also, I live in Linn County now and he died in Multnomah. Do the filings have to take place at the county of death?

  24. My father passed away over a year ago. We obtained our estate attorney 1 year ago and are just now getting to the final accounting process of the estate. Reading around, it sounds like our process has taken twice as long as most estate processes and there haven’t been any reasons for delays that I can see. It took 5 months from when he was hired to actually even officially start probate (the beginning of the 4 month period for creditors). I am wanting to see someone else’s explanation on how the rest of the process is going to go as I feel that I am getting the delayed version and would like to know how much longer the process really should take. So once the final accounting is filed with the court there is a 15 day waiting period (not business days?), then once that passes how long until he files the order for distribution or is that the next step? How long does Washington County usually take to approve the distribution? My siblings are questioning the process and don’t them to think it is me delaying this. I don;t feel like I’m getting clear explanations or expectations for when this will all be done. I guess I’m wanting to see how long it is until I can distribute after that 15 day period. Thank you.

    • Kim,

      Once the 15 day period expires, the executor will send an order approving the final account to the court. Once the order is signed by the judge (perhaps a week later), distributions can be made. The 15 day period can be bypassed if all beneficiaries consent; I suspect one or more of the beneficiaries of your father’s estate refused to consent. Washington County is the slowest and most difficult county in the state. A one year probate is not unreasonable.


  25. Yesterday I discovered that my Uncle, my mothers brother, died 18 months ago. I only found this by doing a google search and he appeared in the social security death database. My sister and I would be the only heirs. He was not married and had no children. I am not sure, but am guessing he likely had no will. How can I determine if there was a will and if not would it be too late to make a claim against the estate?

    • Susan,

      It appears there was no probate proceeding, since you were never notified. (I am assuming your mother is deceased.) If he had no will, any interested party can commence a probate proceeding, but this is a wasted effort unless he had assets. Do you know if he had any assets? Who was in touch with him at the time of his death? You need a little more information, and I suspect the people closest to him have the answers.


      • Thank you for your reply. You are correct, my mother is deceased. I know of no other person who has information regarding him. We have been trying to locate him since my mothers death in 2003. I do not know if he has assets other than one search of PIPL indicated he lived in a property in Oregon with an attached value. There is no house number, just a street name so I don’t know if the property was a rental or a home he owned. Thanks for any insight

        • What is PIPL? If you can provide me your uncle’s name and the city he lived in, I can look through the real estate records to see if any property is titled in his name. His death certificate will list an “informant” (usually a friend or family member) who provided information to the medical examiner. You may want to order a death certificate.

  26. My father passed on 5 May 2014. My father had 2 children(myself and my sister) along with my mother. My sister had little contact with my family, and was my half sister. My mother has chosen not to notify her of the death of her father at this time. From what I understand, under Oregon law, since my father had no will, I or my mother needs to file a executor, and notify my sister of his death. I am curious though, what right if any does she have to any property, due to the fact my mother is the surviving heir?

    • I’d also like to add, the house is in both of the their names, along with the bank account. Most of the debt(ie credit cards) is in my fathers name only, and I am working to pay it off with the current assets available.

      • Dusten,

        I am not sure anyone is liable for his credit card debt. In general, jointly owned assets passing by right of survivorship are not chargeable with a decedent’s debts. Only his probate estate, if there is one, is liable for debts.


    • Dusten,

      If your father and your mother owned everything jointly, and if his IRA passed by beneficiary designation, there will be no probate, no executor is appointed and no one is entitled to notice. Do you know if your father owned assets in his own name (i.e., not jointly) that did not pass by beneficiary designation?


  27. Greetings. My Aunt died on 5/20/14, at home of cancer. She never married and had one nephew and four nieces, each of them left $20,000. She had a will and named me Personal Representative. Her condo is valued at about $250K, her 401(k) plan at $97,000 and some stocks at $93,000. She left ME only a money market account with $24K in it. I only received the Death Certificate today, 6/9/14. Her property is located in Washington Co. so I was going to go out there tomorrow (I live in Multnomah Co.). Do I have to file and go through probate? Besides the $100K given to us five, she left the balance of her estate to two charities, well-known ones. I do not yet know who the 401(k) has as its beneficiary) as I am awaiting their packet in the mail. She has no debts and owned everything outright. The stocks are in four well-known companies bought in the 60’s for little but have ballooned in value. I also do not know who those will go to. Question: None of us believe that Aunt Pat’s intention was to leave us only $20K each and the balance of approx. $340K to two charities she never once mentioned. (She was affiliated with several charities and was generous during her lifetime, but those are not the ones named in the Will.) Her Will is also very vague re: who is responsible for the sale of the condo. (1) Do I need to file for probate in the notoriously slow Washington Co? and (2) If the stocks and the 401(k) plan are left “to her estate,” may we descendants contest that? I have not yet contacted the lawyer who drew up the Will, but plan to do so, just wanted to save money by doing all the initial leg-work myself. I don’t want to create a large legal bill as I know I can handle the probate. I am an intelligent retired person and all us heirs get along well and support each other. Thank you for your thoughts.

    • Pamela,

      It appears that her estate is over the small estate affidavit limits, and that a probate is necessary. The stocks could be messy or time consuming if each is owned directly through the issuer, rather than in street name. I sympathize with you for having to file in Washington County, which is as combative and unresponsive as it is slow. The court appointed personal representative will sell her condo. If you are going to file a will contest, you should not file to be appointed personal representative, since you would be suing yourself. What does her prior will say? Or did she have one?

      Your prospects for a will contest depend on whether she lacked capacity or signed the will because of undue influence. The attorney’s testimony will be important, and he will undoubtedly say that your aunt was fine. (The attorney would look foolish if he says your aunt didn’t know what she was doing, but he nonetheless prepared a will for her.)

      Driving out to Washington County will not help you, unless you would enjoy a trip out of the house to see the courthouse.

      I know this is self-serving, but I would not fret over the attorney fee, since it is indirectly being paid by the charities. Attorneys in Oregon perform probate services on an hourly rate, and the judge must approve the fee before it is paid. Usually this prevents a client from being gouged. The new Washington County probate judge sees attorneys as adversaries, and will not allow excessive fees.

      With best regards. Good luck.


      • Greetings, Mr. Streicher. Thank you so much for your earlier response and advice. I do have one other question, though, and a follow-up if the answer is affirmative. My Aunt had made two changes to her 10-year old Will. (1) She had crossed out the name of one of the charities and revised it, from the original “Northwest Medical Teams” to now read “Medical Teams International.” She had also written an Addendum which was neither witnessed nor notarized, but which said, “To my niece, ___ ______, in gratitude for her years of love and caregiving, I leave my 2010 Mazda, if it is in good working order and she wants it.” Well, she does want it, but is now told that she must purchase the auto from the estate at Kelly Blue Book value and I must have my grandmother’s ring appraised and pay almost $1,000 for it, even though Aunt Pat had given it to me 15 years ago and I had told her to hang on to it and I would get it later, meaning after she died. (She loved her mother’s ring only was unable to wear it due to her arthritic knuckles.) Are these two changes, the cross out and writing on the original Will AND the typewritten but signed “Addendum” enough to invalidate the Will? If you believe your answer to be, “Yes,” are you a litigator who would take this case? Since you are in Multnomah County, does it make a difference since the Will is to be probated in Washington County?

        Thank you again for your counsel. I see how you answer others’ questions and your advice seems very sound and thoughtful to me. I wish you were our attorney now but I am only waiting to get my Testamentary Letters before looking to pursue this matter further. Take care and God bless ~ Pam Porter

        • Pam,

          First, the easy question, unless your aunt was living in California when she wrote the addendum, it is invalid and basically disregarded.

          It is doubtful if the cross out in the original will invalidates the entire will, although that is a gray area. I have worked on several cases in which items of personal property residing in the decedent’s home at death but were apparently given away during life. In general, possession is ownership, and it is very difficult to prove that something possessed by a decedent was given away.

          I would not be willing to represent a party trying to overturn your aunt’s will, but there may be lawyers in town who will. The tricky part is the attorney fee, since most lawyers will be reluctant to work for a contingent fee.


  28. My sister passed away in Portland, Oregon, in December of 2013. She died intestate, lived in a rented apartment, left no debts, and had zero assets. A couple of months ago our last surviving uncle passed away in New York; she was named as a beneficiary in his will. In order to ensure that our uncle’s estate is administered correctly and without delaying disbursement to the other beneficiaries (there are 14 of us) I need to become the administrator/executor of her estate.
    I would very much appreciate if you can point me in the right direction in regards to beginning this process.

    • Chuck,

      Since your sister predeceased your uncle, she is not a beneficiary under his will. Her gift lapsed. Her estate is still zero.

      Your uncle’s will is the key document, as it will say what happened to your sister’s share. It might disappear; it might pass to her descendants; it might be reallocated to the other beneficiaries, etc.


  29. In 2009, my grandmother (w/3 children) changed her will to exclude my father (with Alzheimer’s disease) so that my step-mom received nothing but added me and my siblings in his place. My childless aunt died in 2012. That leaves my father and his sister. A week after my childless aunt passed away, my dad’s other sister, drove my grandmother to the attorney’s office to remove my siblings and I. She then convinced our grandmother to sell her home (proceeds went to our only cousin) and move into an assisted living center. Three months later, she convinced her to give away her car (to our cousin). She no longer attends church because she has no way to get there. Now our grandmother has to take public transportation or a taxi to visit our ill father. I currently live in Virginia to go to school. My two sisters are my step-mom’s children as well as my dad’s. They haven’t had contact with our grandmother for more than 6 years, since our dad became too till and placed in a home. My brother and his family lives in Oregon and visits our grandmother about once a month. When she passes would we stand a chance contesting her will?
    Also, our living aunt created a fake will to present to the probate court naming herself and my grandmother the heirs and specifically not our father. In the fake will, she was to take my aunt’s dog. When my aunt was in the hospital, she told me to have the dog gassed. I’ve been caring for the dog ever since. The reason I didn’t contest our childless aunt’s will is because it would have upset our grandmother. I didn’t feel the need to upset her, the total value of her estate was about 700,000. My grandmother and our aunt gave my brother and I our childless aunt’s house (180k) as a token of goodwill to show our grandmother that she would take care of us once grandma died. But she has told me on numerous occasions, that if my brother and I wanted anything, even a fork out of grandma’s house that we needed to make our grandmother put it in the will or we would get nothing.

    • I forgot to add, that our grandmother’s estate which was primarily our grandfather’s who was not our living aunt’s father, is worth about 850,000 give or take. Our aunt has instructed our grandmother to inform her of all calls/visits with me and my siblings and the nature of the calls/visits. She also tells horrible stories about us that aren’t true in an effort to have grandma view us in a negative light. Grandma’s closest sibling passed away in 2010 and the other ones do not live nearby. She doesn’t really have any friends anymore because she can’t attend services at the church. So I’m not sure if there would be anyone that she was close to who would be able to speak about how she felt, except for her former pastor.

    • Leanna,

      That’s quite a question.

      It is hard to say whether you can contest your grandmother’s will, since I don’t know anything about her age or health, or how much influence your aunt has on her. The most promising approach would be for your brother to try to get your grandmother to add you and your siblings as beneficiaries. (Will contests are expensive.) Was your brother cut out too?

      I am not sure what you mean by a “fake will,” but it appears the time has long since passed for objecting. Since you received the house, you were not damaged too much by the bogus will, as it appears you would have received only about $50,000 more if there were no will.


  30. My daughter has died in a car accident recently. She was 19 and living with us. Also, she was a passenger in the car. My insurance and the driver’s insurance have proposed a settlement offer of $50k (the maximum the policy allows). Both insurance companies have suggested that I must be appointed as Personal Representative of my daughter before they send any checks.

    I was given conflicting information as to the type of form that I need to file. Some have suggested that I need to file Small Estate Affidavit form while others have suggested that I should file a full probate.

    Should I be listing my wife and her siblings as the heirs? All her siblings live with us and with the exception of one they are all under 17 years of age.

    • Mohamed,

      First of all, I am very sorry that you lost your daughter. I think you must file a probate, since only a court appointed personal representative may pursue a wrongful death claim. Some Oregon counties allow a very streamlined probate in these circumstances; others do not.


  31. My mother in law recently passed suddenly with no will, she was a widow and there are 6 surviving children. Her only assets are personal property, and a commercial building valued at less than $100K. Are we required to go through probate even though everyone is willing to settle things peacefully? I assume if so we qualify for a Small Estate probate?

    Thank you

    • Lanell,

      The answer to both of your questions is yes.

      Having said that, if you are going to sell the property, you might be able to find a title insurance company willing to insure title to the property without a probate. If so, neither a probate nor small estate affidavit is necessary.


  32. is it a normal practice to prorate property taxes when distributing funds from a trust

    my father passed away in december..his estate was in a trust..his properties were distributed on april 1..he paid all property taxes before he died on these properties out of funds in his the trustee is distributing the remaining funds in the trust on a prorated basis requiring some of us to pay money back to the trust for 90 days of property taxes..i have never heard of such a thing

    • Stanley,

      I think the trustee is wrong. I have never heard of this.

      I am guessing that the takers of the property are different than the persons receiving the residue of the trust? Otherwise, the property taxes pro rates are meaningless.

      In all events, if your father paid all property taxes, the property was “paid up” through June 30, 2014. A “windfall” — three months of prepaid property taxes — was conferred on whoever received the property. If anything, the persons receiving the remaining funds are entitled to a reimbursement from the person receiving the property, not the other way around. In all events, it is not typical to prorate property taxes on real property distributed from a trust. Normally, the property is conveyed as is.


      • is it mandated in law anywhere that the property taxes be prorated..the trustee is quoting me it is just like selling a house..the buyer and seller prorate the taxes in the contract..there is no contract in this situation..there is 6000$ left in the trust and my fathers trust states all remaining fund are to be divided equally

        it makes no sense to me

        • Stanley,

          I do not recall anything in the Uniform Trust Code that compels property tax prorates. It is true that taxes are prorated if there is a sale, but not when a trustee is simply distributing an asset to a beneficiary of the trust.

          Doesn’t the property tax prorate increase the remaining fund (i.e., the residue)? Since the property taxes were prepaid, it seems like the distributee of the property would essentially be paying funds to the residuary beneficiaries.


  33. My brother died intestate March 2013. My two sisters and I were his only heirs. The estate was probated as an estate worth less than $50000. All claims were paid and the estate was closed. Or so we thought. My brother was a federal employee with a small ($29000) life insurance policy. There were no named beneficiary on the policy. The policy holder (fed govt) was us to go through another probate. Not an abbreviated short probate, but a long one. My question is why? All claims have been paid. I am somewhat confused by this.

    • Patricia,

      It makes no sense to me why the insurer would not accept a small estate affidavit. I would talk to another representative. I have never heard of a third party insisting on a “full probate” for a $29,000 asset.


  34. My mother just passed recently. I am joint-owner on her bank accounts. Do I have to wait for probate to do anything or do I just submit death certificate to bank to remove her name? Are the accounts part of probate? Can we just pay her final bills (a few medical bills and care home cost) out of the account and avoid probate all together? She has no property or other assets. Thanks

    • Christy,

      In general, the account belongs to you, and the bank will re-title the account in your name once presented with a death certificate. No probate is needed. You can pay your mother’s bills from the account if you choose.


      • One more quick question….my sister is handling the paying of my mom’s bills….what happens if she doesn’t pay them? Or if something gets missed? Do we get held accountable for any of that? Thanks

        • Christy,

          Under Oregon law, your sister is obligated to pay bills from the account, and only funds remaining after all bills are paid may be retained by the heirs. If your sister keeps the funds and leaves creditors unpaid, she is liable to the creditors for the funds they should have received.


  35. My husband’s sister passed away suddenly. She lived in a single-wide 45 year old trailer that had been her mother’s but is now in her name. She also had a car that is at least 12 years and has not been registered since 2010 and is still in her mother’s name (the mother died in 2006). She left no will, instructions, beneficiary on her bank account or even a letter. She was also a hoarder and the trailer, despite the best efforts of my husband and his brother, is more than a disaster area – she had passed away 4-5 days before she was found and the cat had not been fed or watered, so you can imagine the problem. What are our legal responsibilities in this situation? It would probably take a haz-mat team to clean out the trailer and that is money we don’t have. There are some personal items, i.e. photos of the family, etc. that my husband and his brother would want and other than some food that is unopened the rest is of no use to anybody. What responsibility do we have about the trailer? If we take the car and the bank account to pay her few bills, are we then responsible for the trailer?

    • Katherine,

      I am assuming the sister had no children and her parents are both deceased. If so, her siblings (being her heirs) can transfer the vehicle to themselves by signing a DMV inheritance affidavit and sending it to the DMV. Surprisingly, persons signing a DMV inheritance affidavit and getting the decedent’s car are not liable for the decedent’s debts.

      You can go through a similar exercise to withdraw the bank funds, except that the taker of a bank account must use the funds to pay the decedent’s debts, and only gets to keep what is left over. In your sister’s case, nothing will be left over.

      Technically, you have no rights to anything in the mobile home, and creditors must be paid before you may remove anything. But you are probably not violating any laws if you take possession of the photos and perhaps food. If an executor is appointed, he can demand return of the items, but that is unlikely, since they have no value.

      In summary, you can probably transfer the car without incurring liability to the creditors. But withdrawing the bank account opens Pandora’s box. The safest approach is to do nothing and run from the mobile home as fast as you can. You have no legal obligation to get involved, and will probably regret it if you do.


      • Thanks so much for the info! My husband and his brother are taking your advice. They are paying for her burial and are donating the car as it isn’t worth much at this point. You saved us from getting into some deep problems.

  36. My father passed away in April without a will. He was a resident of Union County, OR. My brother was going to apply to the court to be executor, but he did not do so, thereby losing us 3 months of valuable time. The property is mortgaged, and behind now, with the mortgage company calling me for information about when they will receive another payment. There are no funds to make a payment from dad’s accounts-I, or another family member would have to pay the mortgage, but no one is willing to do so, if there is a chance of loss beacuse of the other debt tied to the property. There are several large credit cards that are owing and dad passed with no savings or any assets that could be sold to pay these, in addition to medical expenses that were incurred when dad was ailing and in rehab… My nephew would like to keep the property, which I don’t believe, if sold, would cover the debts, other than paying back the mortgage itself. I am considering applying to the court in place of my brother but am not sure which debts would need to be paid. Would I need to sell the property to pay the liens from unsecured credit debt that are showing on the title report? The only secured debt is the mortgage itself. And if so, since my nephew is pre-qualified, could it be sold to him? Thank you!

    • Melody,

      The best legal advice I can give you is to turn the other way and run as fast as you can. I get the sense that your father has more debts than assets. You will be hard pressed to find an attorney because there may be insufficient cash to pay the attorney fees. Serving as an executor will be a thankless job, as you will be trying to resolve the claims of numerous angry creditors trying to find money where there isn’t any. To make matters worse, you would have to advance the filing fees and bond premium, and might not get reimbursed. Run the other way as fast as you can.


  37. My mother passed away without a will. Her condo is valued under $150,000.00 so my brothers and I are in the process of filing a small estate affidavit with Multnomah County. How long does it take to be recored? We would like to list the property with a real estate agent. Thanks

    • Pam,

      I usually file the small estate affidavit with the court and then purchase a certified copy of the filed document. The court usually takes up to one week to send me the certified copy.


  38. Hi. My Father passed away in April of this year in Oregon of brain cancer. My step mother will not tell us if there was a will or not. The courts say that nothing has been filed for probate. I know that my dad had received a pretty substantial settlement in the recent years. A lawyer has told me to file probate and become the representative… but I’m just curios what this will do? My dad always kept his own bank account. His whole marriage to my step mom. Do you think I am even entitled to anything.. with or without a will? I just am not sure if its worth doing anything at all?

    • Nik,

      If your father had no will, his biological children are entitled to half of his probate estate. Keep in mind, however, that all of his assets may have passed free of probate, via joint ownership and beneficiary designations. If this is the case, the only probate assets are his personal effects.

      You can certainly file for probate and force your stepmother to produce the will, if there is one. Also, even if there is no will, the court may hesitate to appoint you executor over the stepmother. Sometimes the court will require the stepmother’s consent, or alternatively, will give her a day in court to state why she is the better choice.


  39. My mother passed away in 1999 and according to a Will given to us by our sister, that was never notarized, never put in Probate or written through an attorney, the house was given to the sister which is in her name. We thought this justified because she took care of our mother before she died. The sister is now 78, never married or had children and as one of two siblings 10 years younger want to know if we have any rights to the house, if she should die.
    We do not know where to start on this and would appreciate advice.

    • Tom,

      If the house is now titled in your sister’s name alone, the short answer is “probably not.” You only have rights to the house if your sister gives it to you.


  40. My mother passed away in August 2014. She had been staying with my sister for 30 days in Oregon. On the death certificate it has my sisters address as my moms residence address. Prior to that 30 days mom was in Washington and her residence was in Washington for the last 60 years. We never did anything to establish residence in Oregon. Mailing address for insurance was Washington, State ID, the will, bank accounts, Soc Security checks, and my mom’s house, everything in Washington. Our attorney in Washington said it shouldn’t be a problem to probate only in Washington. Just making sure that is correct. Thank you.

  41. Father passed Sept. Has a Revocable Living Trust. No property/house or car. Bank account has joint name. Items in trust -stocks and misc items total value less than 100,000.? At most . Only problem is a company he held a life insurance and stocks total less than 20,000 did not have a second beneficary listed . I sent copy of death certif. And living trust. Stating I am the trustee. Will this cover what is needed? Do I need to file anything in court?Do I need to run an ad in paper once a week for 3 weks for any unknown creditors? He had NO debit.

    • Jamie,

      If your father was an Oregon resident, you may need to file a small estate affidavit in order to convince the life insurance company or stock brokerage company to release the funds.


  42. My Mom is dying at a facility in Lacey, Washington, and only has days. She is unresponsive. She stated she left no will. I have repeatedly ask her attorney to talk with her so a will could be made out. I am the only surviving child. My brother passed away in June 1992. My Mom is a life-long resident of Washington and I reside in Oregon. She wanted me to inherit everything; but with no will now. Can I be appointed the executrix of her estate in Washington if I am the only child (she is not married) and live in Oregon? Her total estate is valued at approximately just under $200,000. This includes a home, vehicles, misc pieces of property and sticks and bonds.

  43. My step mother passed away in August 2014 and in September most of her estate went into probate. My father died in 93, and she never settled his will but she did get my 97 year old grandmother to sign over her estate too, she held a trust account for my children in the sum of 723k which was set to be their inheritance. The account was closed this year in September without going to my children and I was told that even though I was the trustee of the account, that it had now been pooled into my step mothers assets. My childrens names were on the account as beneficiaries. Also there are multiple accounts still in my grandmothers name, can I as her only living blood kin claim her estate? My step mothers sister is trying to claim my families properties and money as the head of estate for my step grandmother. I’m also in Washington State, please help.

    • Amelia,

      The plot is rather complicated.

      A starting point for unraveling this mess is your grandmother’s will. Did your grandmother have a will? If so, what does it say regarding the beneficiary of her estate and the nominations for executor? Normally the will is filed with the court. Once you find the will, we can narrow down the alternatives available to you. Without the will we are just flailing around without much direction.


      • My grandmother left everything to my step mother. She signed the will at an ailing age of 97 directly after a massive stroke. My question is, wouldn’t we be able to fight for my grandmother things since my step mother has now passed and we are only remaining blood kin. She held the estate’s separate. None of the previous wills, including my grandmothers were honored. Also, the trust for my children-wouldn’t that go to my children at the passing of my step mother?

  44. good afternoon Sir.. My name is Jonathan,,, my mother passed about a year and a half ago..and my father passed July 5, 2014,,in his will he left me $20.000 cash. Some how, my sister, ( the PR ) executor.. managed ” over the years” to convince mom n dad to give all the rest to her and her family When my father passed he was living at a retirement assisted living facility. Two months after his death,, the said assisted living facility notified my sister and myself that they had prescribed him a ( double dose) of meds prompting his death.. the insurance company had my sister n I sign paperwork stating we wouldn’t sue if we settled out of court.. $ 150,000 split two she is trying to claim she should get more of if not all the insurance money..what should I do?? can she do that?? thank you ,,,god bless,,Jonathan,,

    • Jonathan,

      In general, a wrongful death award is allocable to the parties who lost the companionship of the deceased. While the estate (i.e., executor) is the plaintiff, the funds are not distributable under the will. Thus, you are not limited to $20,000 of a wrongful death award. A starting point would be to review the documents you signed and identify the payee of the $150,000. You may want to email me a copy of the settlement documents, so that I can respond more fully.


  45. Hi Dirk,
    A married man died and left vacant lot in his name only. He has two children who are not the children of his spouse so the wife get’s 1/2 and each of the children 1/4. The wife files an intestate small estate as the a claiming successor becoming the affiant. The wife (affiant) waits 4 months and then wants to sell the vacant lot. Can the wife (affiant) sell the lot to a 3rd party (grantee) using an affiant’s deed and then distribute the proceeds proportionately to the heirs or does she have to convey the property to all of the heirs and then have all three deed to the grantee? If all of the heirs do not convey the property does it put a cloud on the title because they have not released their interest?

  46. My husband passed away in June. His daughter was living with us and I was the beneficiary on all his life ins and retirement. The vehicles and all assets were in both of our names. Am I right in thinking that his life ins and retirement are all that we have to split between us? It is very minimal and I would like to avoid spending money on an atty.

  47. Hi,
    I had probated my late husband’s will in Washington State ( where we lived) and I am the legal representative and the only beneficiary. Everything in Washington state has been taken care of. However, he has a vacant lot in Oregon in his name only ( worth about $30,000 or less). I promised him to give it to his son.
    Do I need to probate in Oregon too? How much does it cost? and Can I do it myself? Your answer is most appreciated. Thanks.

  48. My only living parent just passed away. I am the executor of her estate. She really didn’t have many assets, and most of her accounts were previously closed. I am a joint account holder with the only two still open.

    The big issue is the house. The house was refinanced to pay off my parents debt. My husband is on the mortgage with her. The warranty deed for the house was never changed to reflect his name, although this should make him the joint owner of the property. I believe there is right of survivorship. Because of this, is probate necessary?

    • Sharon,

      If record title to the real estate is in your mom’s name alone, you may need to do a probate. The fact that your husband is a co-obligor on the mortgage does not cause the house to pass to him by right of survivorship. But there may be a fix. If you are going to sell the house, a title company may be willing to insure title in the name of the buyer without probate so long as all of your mother’s children sign off on the conveyance. Alternatively, if the value of the house (gross value, without regard to debt) is under $200,000, you can transfer title to the beneficiaries under your mom’s will with a small estate affidavit.

      I am surprised the bank would list your husband’s name on the loan without insisting that record title be changed to make him a joint owner. Usually, the parties liable on the debt must also be owners.


  49. My father just passed away. He and my mother both had wills declaring each other beneficiaries, with some small entitlements to me, the only child, and my children and grandchildren. My mother is the legal power of attorney, and also the executor of dad’s will. (and, I believe that she inherits everything until at her death, it passes on to the above mentioned). Is it necessary for her to go through probate, or does she just automatically ‘inherit’ all of the properties? Everything was in both their names, home, auto, etc.. She is doing the requirements reSocial Security, banking institutions, insurances, veterans benefits, and unions. Is she required to contact the attorney and have him involved?
    Thank you!

    • Carol,

      No probate is necessary. Items owned jointly or passing by beneficiary designation need not be probated. Cars can also be transferred without probate. The transition should be relatively easy. You will need to provide death certificates to third parties from time to time, but not much more.


  50. Dear Mr. Streicher: I am the Personal Representative of an estate that is preparing to close, as soon as the judge (in Washington County) signs the General Judgment Approving Final Account and General Judgment of Final Distribution, which could be any day now since the time for objections/questions to the Final Accounting has passed and this paperwork was mailed to the judge over two weeks ago. Our probate attorney has closed her office (in preparation of retiring) and her mail is being forwarded to her home address, which is where the notification postcard will go. To add to the fun, she is taking a week of vacation. My sister, who is one of the heirs, is in dire straits financially and really needs at least some of her inheritance now. Question: What can happen to me if I advanced her $5,000 of her gift now and give the rest upon receipt by our attorney of the postcard, probably next week when she returns home? I don’t want to go to prison, but everything is done except getting this date to put on the receipts the heirs must sign. Who would even know if I did write a check a little early? What can happen to me? Thank you for your assistance. I wrote to you last May and tried to engage your services with this probate, but you refused me, saying you didn’t do Washington County probates. I sure don’t blame you. God bless~Pam Porter

    • Pamela,

      I also retired and am an inactive attorney, and cannot represent clients. I do not represent you, and my comments are just that — they cannot be relied on by anyone.

      If all of the heirs consent in writing or email, you are probably OK making a loan to your sister. She would repay the loan by offsetting an equal amount of the inheritance she eventually receives. But you cannot just distribute part of her inheritance before the final account is approved. With an inexpensive subscription called OJIN, one can go online and follow the status of a case. In your case, perhaps the court clerk will tell you if the final account was approved (provided you tell her that your attorney is retiring and not responding.) Washington County is a very hostile place, both the clerks and judge Erwin. Neither will be especially cooperative or helpful. It is true no one will probably learn of an early distribution to your sister. If a lawyer tells you to go ahead with this (i.e., fudge), he or she will get disbarred. If judge Erwin finds out, he will view this as usurping his authority and try very hard to inflict pain on you.


  51. Greetings…Boy am I glad I found this site…

    I really hope you can help me to understand this process a little better.

    My Dad recently passed away on April 19th of this year here in Oregon. & My oldest sister was named as executor of the will. There are three of us listed in the will & we are each to receive an equal share of My Dads remaining assets.

    Here’s the dilemma My sister has cut off all communication with My younger sister Beth & I & will not respond to quires from either of us for any reason to see where things are in this process.
    My Dads wishes were to be cremated & to be spread at a local lake that he had fished at for years.. Beth & I got together & decided we couldn’t think of a better time to do it than Memorial day. However the executor is sitting on the ashes & apparently wont part with them until she’s ready to. And God only knows when that will be. Not to mention the rest of the estate.
    My question is what rights do we have & is there anything we can do to move things forward in a more timely manner?


    • Dave,

      Oregon law is not crystal clear how disputes over disposition of remains are resolved. See ORS 114.305(10 and 97.130(2)(h). Your remedy is to file a petition with the court and ask the judge to order the personal representative to dispose of the remains in the proper manner. This is problematic. Your sister can tell the court that your father’s wishes were different than your recollection. Second, filing with the court is a slow process. In most cases, the personal representative will take care of the neglected task at the last minute, and the petitioners bear the expense of filing with the court. In general, courts do not view a 2 or 3 week delay as material. Judges are used to lawyers taking forever to do things. In short, your legal remedies are not the greatest. As far as keeping you advised, you have a right to request a copy of anything your sister files with the court. This is done by filing a “request for notice” with the court.


  52. Dear Dave,
    My brother passed away unexpectedly April 15th. He did not have a will that we could find. He has one daughter (22) who has been estranged from him due to Felony charges he had to file against her for stealing over $10,000 from him. Stealing has been a problem her whole life, she even stole from our parents and then she resells the items.

    I understand that she is considered next of kin, and then the order would be my mother who is living and than siblings. It was also our understanding that his estate needed to go through probate and thus follow probate laws for settling and debts etc and then distribution of the estate.

    I also understood that his daughter with the criminal charges can not serve as an executor of his estate, but that she can appoint someone else. She has asked that her mother my brothers ex-wife be appointed.

    I am not sure what that process involves to be approved for that, but our concerns are the mother is also someone not to be trusted. It bothers me to say anything, but there is a long history there that has proved it to be true too. My brother would not agree with that decision at all.

    Our even greater concern is, they both went into my brothers home beginning two days after he passed away and started taking his personal assets from the home. Neither one of them lived there.

    There has been no inventory done, they are just taking everything of any value. In fact the daughter that is still on probation actually broke into the house through a window with her boyfriend when the deadlock was locked on the house and she didn’t have access to get in. Then they ripped the new wide screen TV off the wall and walked away with it and another one along with other things.

    They are just taking everything, even his high valued tools. Anything of value they are taking. I tried to explain that all assets needed to be accounted for, inventoried and that all debts and funeral arrangements should be taken care of and paid first.

    The daughters name is not listed as a beneficiary on any accounts, vehicles or the house. Our understanding was that until the estate has cleared the Probate the daughter has no legal right to take possession of anything.

    We are confused, and very concerned. We do not want anything monetary otherwise but we do want to see that things are handled correctly.

    They have had no concern for my brother, kept us at a distance with planning a funeral, said that was being handled only to find out they picked the date and announced it but no plans were made. So the last couple days my sister and I have had to step in and plan a service and pay for it. He deserves to me memorialized have a proper burial, everyone does.

    My questions for you are, can we contest the ex-wife being appointed as an executor and how?

    We would be fine with a Lawyer handling it. We had hoped this would not become an icky situation but clearly we don’t trust what is going on. My brother does not deserve this.

    And two, if they have in fact seen an attorney, I highly doubt he would approve of what they are doing, so do we bring it to someone’s attention and how do we go about that?

    Do we need to get an attorney to approach any of this?

    There is a complete sense of entitlement here, and we have been told as such, that it is all there’s now. My brother has had a room mate living with him, who is still in the house for another week and has witnessed so much of this. So I don’t know if that is helpful to us either.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated, so disheartened..
    Thank you so much.

    • Mary,

      The legal remedies for this kind of situation are not the greatest. The police will seldom get involved unless the person is caught in the act or there is potential violence. The executor has the right to compel the daughter to account for what she has taken. However, it is hard to prove what someone has removed from a home. And the daughter can say that she is “holding” the items so that they are safeguarded from burglary losses.

      One avenue would be for you to petition the court to appoint you executor. Unless your niece and mother decline to serve, the court will insist on a hearing before appointing you. In choosing an executor, it is rare for a court to appoint a sibling rather than the decedent’s adult child or mother. But if the mother is unwilling to serve and the daughter has a criminal record, you might be successful. Keep in mind that you would have to use your own funds to pay filing fees and the surety bond, with the expectation of repayment once the estate becomes liquid.

      From a business perspective, I am not sure why you want to get involved. No matter who is appointed executor, everything passes to the daughter. Third party creditors might be adversely affected by the daughter’s actions, but that is not really your problem.

      A Portland attorney who is experienced in these types of estates is Bruce Weinsoft. You might want to call him.


  53. Dear Dave: My mother-in-law recently passed. She left behind a Will from 2003 (which was filed in OR courts) and appointed my sister-in-law as the personal representative. She had a reverse mortgage on the home. There is a small amount of equity (likely 45-50K or so) between the reverse mortgage balance and the probable market value from the home. My sister-in law has resided in the house the past 30 years. She has notified the reverse mortgage company that the house will be put up for sale and is dealing with a real estate agent. However, the will has not been filed in probate. Does my husband and sister-in-law need to file the will for probate to grant them the right to sell the house and obtain the equity from the house to be divided equally by them when sold? There is also two vehicles and a trailer that she plans on selling.

    Thank you!

    • Tiffany,

      The second sentence of your comment says the will “was filed in OR courts.” I am trying to reconcile this with the subsequent sentence that says “the will has not been filed in probate.”

      Normally, a probate proceeding must be commenced to transfer title to real property. (Only a court appointed personal representative has authority to sign a deed to transfer the property.) Commencing a probate means filing the original will and a petition with the court. So the answer is “yes,” the will must be filed with the court and a probate proceeding must be commenced.

      Sometimes a title insurance company will insure title (without probate) provided all of the children sign affidavits and quitclaim deeds. The title insurance premium may be a little higher, but it will always be less than the cost of a probate. You should ask a title insurance company if this is possible.

      Finally, if the value of the house is $200k or less, you can transfer title to the buyer with only a small estate affidavit, which is much cheaper than a full probate.


  54. My Mother went through probate and was awarded ownership of the House and property after paying a lump sum to my grandfathers Estate. We received the agreement signed by the PR/Executor and my mother.
    The ownership of the property according to the tax records is in my mothers name but under “Deed Type” it says PR/ Executor Deed. Does this mean the property is still In Trust of the Estate OR does it mean the title of ownership was transferred from the PR/Executor to my mother?

    • Sandra,

      Provided the PR/Executor Deed was recorded, title to the home is vested in your mother, and none of the ownership is retained by the estate.


  55. Hello Dave,

    I am one of the succeeding cotrustees, and only Oregon resident (Benton Co), of a Trust after the death of the settlor in a California retirement home. The trust owns the former residence of the settlor in Washington Co, OR. As there are no known titled assets not already titled in the name of the trust, we are not expecting to open probate proceeding in Washington Co. and so will not be able to take advantage of the public notice procedures to limit claims under probate. We are paying all known bills of the settlor and believe we have this covered. Is it in our best interest to use ORS 130 procedures to limit the presentation of claims with a court filing and public notice. If yes, then do we need to do that in Washington Co,. where the settlor lived for many years but not in recent years (he maintained legal residence in Oregon), or can we do this in Benton Co. Finally, If we don’t give this optional notice, are there any limits on the presentation of claims after the closing of the trust?

    • Walter,

      I think Benton County is the proper venue, since the principal place of administration is presumably your office. ORS 130.065.

      The most conservative approach is to use the ORS uniform trust code procedures to give notice, etc. As a practical matter, this is rarely done. If the decedent had many creditors, this might be prudent, but if he or she was elderly and inactive, it is probably overkill. But if you don’t give the notice, there is no time limit on claims. The character of the beneficiaries is also relevant. If there is only one beneficiary and he or she is cooperative, I would not be very worried, since the beneficiary would probably just pay the bill. If there are multiple beneficiaries, this is more problematic. In my experience, older decedents have very few bills, and it is unlikely that claims will come in down the road. I would contact the obvious creditors, such as nursing home and hospitals, but it is probably overkill to jump through the hoops of ORS 130.350, etc. Perhaps I was a “minimalist,” but I never used ORS 130.350 because I always concluded it was not necessary.


  56. Father died recently. Had a will and specifically told us children that we would inherit some acreage or the money of the acreage in which the stepmother is in process of selling (on contract) before he died (contract should be completed in fall). How long does stepmother have to file will with the probate court. How long should we reasonably wait? One of my brothers, lives in a duplex that he should inherit that was owned by our father who may have also have had stepmother put on title (we do not know). What should we deem as suspicious behavior by our “stepmother” of 10 years. Father was married to our mom for 40 years before she died. Also, father bought $750,000 home with stepmother. They say that when she dies we will get a share of it – that it won’t all go to her children. Is that really likely?

    • I need more information. How can your stepmother sell the property or collect the contract proceeds if she has not filed with the court to be appointed executor? Keep in mind that if your father and stepmother are both on the title as “husband and wife,” “tenants by the entirety,” or “joint tenants with right of survivorship,” the entire property belongs to your stepmother at his death, and you get nothing. You should find out how the properties are titled. If you do not have copies of the last recorded deeds, you can hire a title company to get copies for a modest fee.


      • Thanks for responding. She started the process of selling it before he died, so he probably signed it. I do not have any deed information. However, she is selling the property to relatives of my mother. Perhaps I could get information from them. They made one big payment and the plan is to make another payment in the fall. If she is not on the deed, is she allowed to spend that money?

  57. My father a resident of Burns, Oregon for past 10 plus years passed away on Saturday. His last will and testimony we have a notarized copy of and was created and signed in Bremerton, Washington. I live in San Antonio and cannot at this time take on the responsibilities of his named Personal Representative. In the next article of the will it states that “in the event that my Personal Representative above named, should be unable or unwilling to act as Personal Representative of my estate, I do herein nominate my son” (My brother). He lives in Washington and is in a much better position to handle the role. What do I need to do? Is there an Oregon State form? Or can a notarized letter from me be sufficient?

    • Shelley,

      The fix is easy. You will sign a one page form that says you decline to serve, and this form will be filed with the probate petition prepared by your brother’s attorney. Your brother’s attorney will prepare the “declination” for your signature.


      • My fiance and I moved I together 2012, she moved into a home I bought for her and her boys June 2015. She died November 21 2015 from an aortic aneurysm. My question is, is there any legal way her ex husband could take control of his sons responsibility at ages 21 and 18 by way of power of attorney or something like that?

  58. May I ask a couple of question about the notification of heirs?

    I live in Oregon, I’m married, and my estate is large enough to require probate. And, to simplify my situation a bit, let’s say that I have no living children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, grandparents, aunts, or uncles. So, except for my wife, my nearest relatives are a dozen or more cousins scattered around the Midwest somewhere, most of whom I’ve had no contact with in many years, if ever. Finally, let’s say that, in my will, I leave my entire estate to my wife, if she outlives me; and otherwise I leave my entire estate to my alma mater. (That’s not very far from my actual situation.)

    Question #1: Let’s suppose my wife predeceases me. In that case, as I understand it, whoever is appointed as my PR would be required by law to send a notice of my death to each of my “heirs” — which would mean my various cousins — even though they wouldn’t stand to receive any part of my estate, since I’m leaving it all to my alma mater. ISN’T THAT RIGHT? (I’d prefer to be wrong. I understand the logic of the law, but I hate to think of my PR wasting his time, and the assets of my estate, trying to track down some distant relatives who wouldn’t benefit anyway.)

    Question #2: Now let’s suppose my wife outlives me. In that case, she would be my sole statutory heir, as I understand the law. WOULD MY PR STILL BE REQUIRED TO NOTIFY MY COUSINS? (I hope you’ll say no. In this case, trying to locate my cousins would seem like an even more pointless waste of time and money.)

    Thank you for whatever insight you can provide.

    • David,

      The answer to Question #1 is yes, and the answer to Question #2 is no.

      “Heirs” means the surviving spouse and all surviving descendants of your grandparents (but not great grandparents). I think second cousins are considered heirs but more distant relatives are not.

      Hope this helps.


  59. My ex-husband, who lived in Oregon with his second wife, passed away just short of a year ago. Our adult children, who live in another state, had a normal relationship with them both. Infact, they visited back and forth periodically, and the children had intended a visit last summer. Their father had been in poor health, and he told them that when they came, he was going to give them copies of his will. A month later, he unexpectedly passed away, just before their visit could take place. Due to the nature of their seasonal business, his widow said she was overcome with the responsibility of running it, and when things settled down she would make a trip to see them to discuss their inheritance. The children understood her situation and accepted this in good faith. They kept in touch with her by phone to be supportive of each other in their time of mourning. Finally, ten months after their father’s death, having had promises of a visit but nothing definite, one of the children emailed asking about the will. Several days of silence followed, and then came an email from an attorney stating that their father’s wife said there was no will, that properties were held jointly, and to please direct all further questions to the attorney and not to contact her. They were stunned and hurt. This was also counter to what their father had told them for years. They even have a letter from their father stating that the will is housed at a particular bank, but the letter is many years old and the bank has a different name now. Besides real estate, their father owned, among other things, cars, trucks, boats, and expensive jewelry, some of which are family heirlooms. What would be the next steps for them to take to inherit their rightful share of their father’s estate. I am also concerned that the wife’s ploy in delaying them may have caused a statute of limitations problem. Thank you.

    • Joy,

      If the father had a will at one time, it would be very unusual for him to revoke the will without signing a new will. (Having said that, marriage revokes a prior will absent a prenup.) Thus, the attorney’s response raises more questions than answers. I don’t think the attorney is lying, mostly because he could lose his license. But I suspect wife #2 is lying to her attorney. But this may not matter too much.

      Under Oregon law, half of his estate passes to his children from a prior marriage if he died without a will. Thus, they get half of each property, including personal effects. But there is a big exception. Items that are held jointly with right of survivorship automatically pass to the other joint owner. This is true whether or not he had a will. I suspect his accounts and real estate are owned jointly and pass to his wife; if you provide me the county, I can verify ownership of the real estate. But I believe the children are entitled to half of the cars, boat and personal possessions. Procedurally, they should file a probate proceeding for an intestate estate. Before they pull the trigger, their lawyer should contact the wife’s lawyer and try to reach a settlement. I wish there was a cleaner way to move forward, but the remedy is not the greatest.

      Unfortunately, this situation is extremely common. Second wives vs. children from a prior marriage are seldom cooperative or friendly.


  60. Greetings Dave
    I posted a query awhile back r/t my Dads passing in April of this year & my sister/PR of the estate.
    My new question is his estate is said to be around 150-180k in total & we 3 kids are each to receive a 3rd of it according to the will.
    The PR still has done nothing as far as moving to close the estate. I am named as a secondary PR if she’s unable to perform the duties which she has proven she can’t & wont.
    Can I petition through the courts to change PR’s if so what is the cheapest way of doing so, ie; forms needed & the procedure & so on?

    • Dave,

      I would contact Bruce Weinsoft or Jessie Minger, who are Portland attorneys who specialize in this sort of thing. Procedurally, the remedy is to petition the court to remove the executor because of her neglect. A hearing will then be set and the judge will decide the case.


  61. In 2002, My Mom and Step-Dad had their last will and testimony done by a local attorney whom has sinced passed. After my Step-Dad passed in 2007, my Aunt said she took mom to update her Will and POA. My mom passed away April2015 and we couldn’t find the Will anywhere, only the POA. We contacted the attorney who took over the wills from the previous attorney and the only Will he had was the 2002 motorized document that named my brother and my Step-Dad’s son as executors if my Step-Dad deceased. We don’t have an original will and moms house was on a reverse mortgage which appraised for less than what it’s worth. The only asset is a car, furniture (unless it’s gifted for sentimental reasons) and that’s it. I currently live in the house and want to buy it, my siblings agree but what steps should my brother be taking because he hasn’t contacted creditors, filed probate, or contacted the stepbrother? Also, I’m the only sibling living and residing in coos county Oregon. Can I file a small Estate affiliate or file something to be named to executor? Or does my brother need to file intestate since there’s no original will, only a copy? Can items of sentimental meaning be given to relatives? Everyone wants a little something but I don’t know what I should or should not be doing. I’ve called my sister and brother and the items are no interest to them and they tell me to give it.
    Thanks for your time. Much appreciated!

    • Janet,

      You have lots of issues.

      It appears your mother did not update her 2002 will, so this will is her “last will.” You can probate a copy of the will if you can’t find the original and there is no evidence that your mother ripped up the 2002 will as an act of revocation.

      You mother has to have some cash accounts. For example, her social security was presumably debited to her.

      You can transfer the car (to the beneficiaries named in her will) by filing a DMV affidavit.

      Is the reverse mortgage more than the value of the house?

      If the house is worth more than $200k, you will probably need to file for probate in order to appoint someone to sell it (perhaps to you). But you may want to decline to do anything if the house is “under water,” meaning its value is less than the mortgage. If that is the case, you should contact the mortgage company about whether they will do a short sale.

      The personal property belongs to the beneficiaries named in the will. They are free to decline their shares or give them to others. In general, if all interested parties agree on the disposition of personal property, there is no problem in doing it informally.


      • Thank you for your response. When you stated “no evidence” as to mom disposing of the original, I have the original envelope with a post it note in her writing stating “need to change to Janet”. Would that qualify as evidence? Or does verbal testimony of her telling family members that she was going to change the will qualify?

        You are correct, she had a checking account which has a low dollar amount and the account has been a freeze on activity since we reported her death. Social Secuity was notified but I’m not aware of funds being debited to her. I’ll have to follow up.
        The appraisal came out 2k less that what’s owed on the reverse mortgage. I’ll check into short sale. If I proceed with short sale, does this require going to probate?
        If beneficial decline property, is there a form they need to fill out, Or will a standard memo suffice? What if one of the personal executors declines their appointment. Can the elect someone else and is there a form for this?
        When you say “probate a copy of the will”, does that mean we have to go to probate? I can’t seem to find much when it comes to little or no assets and/or real property.
        Thanks so much Dave!!

        • Janet,

          Neither the post-it note nor her testimony is evidence that she revoked her will.

          Yes, you need a probate or perhaps small estate affidavit. Otherwise, there would be no one to sign off on the deed conveying the house to you.

          There is no form for declining. A one sentence letter should suffice.;

          “Probate a copy of the will” means file a probate proceeding in the county where the decedent died.

          Finally, and perhaps most important, I would tend to walk away from this estate and not get involved. It sounds like debts exceed assets. You can always allow the house to be sold by the reverse mortgage lender and then buy it.


  62. My mother died in March of 2015. She named my sister as beneficiary in every asset that I can find. My sister died in April of 2015; my sister had named my mother as beneficiary, but sisters named me as her heir and personal representative in her will. They lived together and kept records of policies, investments, etc., whether defunct or transferred or not, in boxes that filled a small room. I’m having trouble finding and sorting out my sister’s assets. Am I able to petition for longer than the 60 days stated in Oregon law to report assets? (There is also a trust, which names me as trustee. Some assets were transferred to and from the trust, and they did not keep track of assets in the trust, so I’m having to sort that out as well.) And can I petition for an extension to file taxes? They lived in Oregon; I live and work in Pennsylvania.

    • Janet,

      First of all, I am sorry you lost both your sister and mother in the last few months. I can only imagine how alone you must feel.

      There is no firm time limit on how fast you must commence a probate or trust proceeding to distribute your mother’s assets. Further, if you are the only beneficiary, there is no complaining party if you work slowly. Your mother’s Oregon estate tax return must be filed within 9 months of death, so you still have time.

      This sounds self-serving, but you need an lawyer to guide you through this process. I do not have an active license (since I just retired), but I can refer you to several attorneys who will do a good job for you. If a referral would be helpful, just email me at I may or may not be able to help you indirectly as an assistant to them.

      With best regards.


  63. hi my mother died in 2014 of cancer. she had no will. my sister just took over account and her house that was more than half way paid for. my other sibling took her vehicle and took over payments on that i got nothing basically. now there is a wrongful death suit which i filed . will they count the house and vehicle as part of their compensation

    • Lynn,

      In general, an executor is entitled to a 2% fee. If your siblings are the executors, the house and vehicle will be taken into account. How were these assets titled at death? Joint with your siblings?


  64. Dave,
    My father passed away in 2007. A few years later, my mother decided to “gift” their lake house to the seven of us kids. It took 3 years to “gift” the entire house value. It has since declined in value. Four of the kids want to dump the house to make a few bucks, the other three want to keep the house my dad built, use it for recreation and maybe the value will increase again. Since we cannot agree on a price to sell the house, one person wants to seek a probate judge and let the judge decide on a price, pay probate and all other fees (which I’ve heard is expensive) and basically we will all loose. Is this something a probate judge would do? Is there any basis to this threat? Can one person put our house into probate without the consent of the others? This has nothing to do with a will, so there is no executor. I appreciate your help.

    • Tami,

      Unless title to the house is in the name of a deceased individual, resolution of the matter has nothing to do with probate.

      I suppose one of the owners could file a suit to partition the house. Unless the asset is divisible, the court will order its sale. A suit for partition is not a probate, but an attorney would probably charge $3k+ to file the suit plus $300/hour for time necessary to bring resolution.

      Will the siblings agree on getting an appraisal? Or you could get two appraisals and average the two. Appraisals only cost about $500 each. Getting an accurate value should not be an insurmountable task. The harder part is whether you should discount the price by the hypothetical realtor commission (as if it were sold) and whether the price is payable all at once.


  65. My mother passed away 17th Feb 2015. My step dad passed away 22nd July 2015. 🙁
    My mom owned a property that my step dad never put under his name. The current renters have been making payments regularly for over 3 years. If I now want to live in this house am assume mortgage, how long would it take for me to be able to assume payments after I get a stamped letter from the courts once in probate? In the time it takes for the current renters to be relocated and the house is sitting vacant, how many months could it be sitting vacant without making mortgage payments on it?

    • Chelsea,

      Before I answer, I need to know how the house was titled in the county’s deed records. Was it titled in the names of your mother and stepfather (I am guessing this is the case), or in your mother’s name alone?


  66. David –
    My grandmother lived in Woodburn, OR and passed on 12/10/1980. She left a will dated 4/19/1963 leaving her estate to her 3 children and naming my aunt (MA) as executrix. The estate included a house worth $27,000, and various small asseets. Total estate worth estimated at $64,500 to be divided evenly amongst the 3 heirs. MA as Executrix initially hired an attorney to help settle the estate, but later fired him, reasons unclear. We have no records to show that probate was ever filed, nor final estate taxes. MA states that she rented out the home to “avoid probate”. My father, one of the heirs, died in 1993, leaving his assests in a trust to his wife(my mother). There was no mention made of his mother’s estate as part of his assets. Over the last 30 years we have assumed most or all of those assests were taken by MA because she admitted in 1990 of taking roughly $20,000 from her mother’s estate to use to start her own business and our family had never received anything from the estate. Roughly 34 years have now passed from my grandmother’s death and her home was just recently sold after being rented during this time(mostly below fair market value). This sale triggered a renewed interest in closing our grandmother’s estate.

    As it turns out, the estate now is worth approx $150,000, including $90,000 from the sale of the home. Most assets held in one bank account (approx $40,000), a “note” owed to the estate by the Exucutrix for the $20,000 she essentially embezzeled from the estate, and the $90,000 held in escrow by the title company pending instructions on dispursment.

    Here is my questions:
    1) if probate was never filed when my grandmother died in 1980, does this need to be done today, 34 years later?
    2) Is there penalties, etc that we may incur because of this lack of filing? Is the estate liable these or just the Executrix – who clearly failed her duties to settle the estate
    3) can the Executrix personally be held responsible for failing to maintain the assets of the estate (ie: renting house below market value, losing other small value properties by failing to pay property taxes)
    4) is the Executrix or the heirs liable for any tax consequences due to failure to file estate taxes, especially regarding rental income.

    and how to best close this estate now 34 years after my grandmother’s death?
    Thank you, Michael

    • Michael,

      As a threshold question, how was the house sold if title was still vested in the grandmother’s name? In other words, who had legal authority to sign the deed? It sounds like either a probate of your grandmother’s estate was done 35 years ago, or the title company was willing to insure title with quitclaim deeds signed by each of the three children. It would be helpful to determine who signed the recent deed.

      If the aunt is unwilling to pay back the $20k WITH INTEREST, you may need to probate the grandmother’s estate so that there is a plaintiff to file suit against her for embezzlement. I suspect this is why her attorney quit. There may be a statute of limitations on your ability to file suit. I guess my threshold strategy would be to tell the aunt that she should be embarrassed to see herself in the mirror after taking money that wasn’t hers.

      There are no penalties for failing to file a probate, just an indefinite limbo period during which assets cannot be moved because they are titled in the name of the decedent.

      The estate was not large enough for estate tax returns to be due. That is the least of your worries.

      Good luck.


      Why did all of the children “sit on their rights” for the past 35 years?

  67. Dave,
    We are in a pickle. We have lived with my Wife’s Grandmother who just passed. She left everything to her 3 kids. Since we live in the house we are needing time to find a new place to live. They are wanting to sell the house what precautions do we need to take to not get kicked out on the streets?

    • Sean,

      You need to retain an attorney quickly. These things can turn nasty; sometimes the tenants lose all of their personal property when they are banned from the property.

      You should contact Bruce Weinsoft or Jessie Minger, who specialize in these types of cases. Jessie, in particular, likes to help the “underdog” when there is the risk of oppressive conduct.

      Jessie Y Minger
      Fitzwater Meyer et al
      6400 SE Lake Rd Ste 440
      Portland OR 97222
      503 786-8191

      Bruce M Weinsoft
      6500 SW Macadam Ave Ste 300
      Portland OR 97239
      503 445-0855

  68. One of my siblings is the trustee for my late father’s and late stepmother’s trust. They passed away in Oregon in 2014 and were residents there. All their assets were in the trust with the exception of my father’s IRA which was distributed to the beneficiaries right after his death. There have been some irregularities which have created a lack of confidence in the trustee’s management of the trust assets and he didn’t notify us of the sale of their home which we only became aware of five months afterward. Their bank account was in the trust and six months ago the check for the sale was made out to him as trustee and sent to him About a month ago when I found out about the sale, I contacted him and he made light of the situation, gave various excuses but said he was planning to distribute the funds “soon.” Two weeks ago he sent me a check for my portion of the sale.

    I would like to request fan accounting of the trust and wonder how to word it and what documentation he should send us as proof of expenses, income, interest and disbursements. Are we entitled to copies the bank statements for the trust? How should I word the request and should I name specific documents in it? Is there a time limit for making the request for an accounting?

    Thank you for your help.

    • Sharrie,

      Under ORS 130.710(3), you are entitled to an accounting. Oregon law is not very specific on the level of detail or underlying documentation that must be provided. At a minimum, however, I think you are entitled to bank statements and tax returns. The trustee will take your request for accounting more seriously if you retain an attorney who contacts the trustee directly. If you need a referral, please contact me at


  69. My Grandson’s other Grandmother passed away about 5 years ago. She had no will. Her husband, my Grandson’s Grandfather passed away a year ago. He left a will. He left my Grandson his house that was on a reverse mortgage. My Grandson is receiving notices in the mail about his Grandmother having a checking account with $800. What does He have to do to be able to close this account. There is one other relative and she was notified several times over the last couple years. She lives in California and doesn’t seem to want any of the money. What does He need to do.

    • Virginia,

      A small estate affidavit or a one page bank affidavit will probably be needed to withdraw the bank account, which will pass (under Oregon law) to grandmother’s children in equal shares. The children are free to dispose of the funds (i.e., make a gift to your grandson) as they see fit.


  70. My grandmother died when I was 3 and left me everything. I have a copy of her will and death certificate. I was left a property in Oregon which I have since found out has gone back for taxes. It states in the will that there was a trust for my education not to be touched but the executor of the estate but I have no way of getting ahold of him of he is even alive as I am now 34 and am just now learning about this. I have no idea where to start to find out if I have anything left to me at all. I would be grateful for any advice you could give on this matter.

    • Mary,

      You can still start a probate and ask the court to appoint you executor. The harder question is whether the estate owns anything. If it doesn’t, commencing a probate serves no purpose.


  71. My dad left a house to me and my three siblings, one of which is the executor (in Washington county). One brother is buying us out because he will continue living in the house. My sister, the executor, is saying that after she and her lawyer file the final account for the estate, it will take “many months to complete the probate process” in Washington county, Oregon.
    Does that mean us remaining siblings will not get the money from dad’s estate for many months, or does that mean that we’ll get the money soon and just the paperwork will need many months to wrap up? What is the timeline we can expect right now in September of 2015?

    • Callie,

      Once the final account is approved, checks can be written the next day. Your sister is either misinformed or trying to give herself extra time (months?) to write three checks.


      • My sister, the executor, was told by her lawyer (paid by dads estate) that there is only one judge in WA county who has to sign off on the probate, and that the backlog in Washington County is horrible. So as soon as the house closes and the bank transfers the money, we can get it, no matter what the judge has to sign off?

        • No. The judge must sign off first. I doubt if the backlog is more than a couple of weeks. “Many months” is an exaggeration.

  72. Hello,
    My husbands father passed away in medford oregon today , we live in california but were here while he has been in the hospital . His father had an estate of 30,000 he wished to disperse between his girlfriend of 10 years, his son and his daughter . He left no written will and no beneficiary on his accounts . How do we gain access? Are there forms to fill oit or do we talk with a lawyer ? Thanks

    • Nicole,

      If his Oregon bank accounts are less than $25k in the aggregate, you can present the bank an affidavit signed by all of the children and the bank will release the funds. Here is the Chapter from Administering Oregon Estates on this procedure:

    • Nicole,

      I am sorry you lost your father-in-law.

      If the aggregate balance of Oregon bank accounts does not exceed $25k, the monies can be withdrawn without probate by presenting the bank an affidavit signed by all of the children. Here is the relevant chapter from Administering Oregon Estates:


      §1.5-13 Bank, Trust Company, or National Bank Deposits

      A bank may, but is not required to, disburse a deceased depositor’s account of $25,000 or less if the claimant furnishes the affidavit prescribed in ORS 708A.430(2). This procedure is available only if the decedent’s aggregate deposits in all Oregon financial institutions (e.g., banks and credit unions) do not exceed $25,000. ORS 708A.430(2)(b).

      The deposit is payable in the following order of priority: (1) the surviving spouse, (2) the Oregon Health Authority or the Department of Human Services (if it has filed a claim), (3) the surviving children who are age 18 or older, (4) the surviving parents, or (5) the surviving brothers and sisters who are age 18 or older. ORS 708A.430(1).

      Except when the claimant is the surviving spouse, the bank must wait 75 days after the date of the depositor’s death before disbursing the deposit, unless the bank first confirms that neither the Oregon Health Authority nor the Department of Human Services has a claim. ORS 708A.430(1)(b).

      In the affidavit, the claimant must promise to pay all the decedent’s debts (including medical and funeral costs) up to the amount of the deposit, and disburse the remaining money to the persons entitled to it under Oregon law. ORS 708A.430(2)(d). If a personal representative is appointed, the claimant must account for the deposit to the personal representative. ORS 708A.430(5). See Form 1-2 for an example of an ORS 708A.430(2) affidavit.

  73. I am a homeowner in Multnomah County Oregon. My wife of 29-years passed away in July 2015 without leaving a will. We had three children and neither of us had a previous marriage or children from another relationship. The house has not been paid off yet, just 4-5 years to go. My understanding is that I automatically inherit everything through intestate succession, that has not been contested.

    While presenting the mortgage lender (my bank for 30-years) the death certificate to have my wife’s name removed from our accounts I was offered a lower interest rate to do a refi/debt consolidation. The banker states that the certificate is enough for me to sign for the loan in her place; however I recently received an “establishment of successor in interest” letter from the bank asking for a court issued order of distribution, copy of trust, an executed will, recorded deed, or affidavit of heirship to prove that I am the legal successor to avoid loss mitigation option. I have none of these documents. The property was recently appraised at $240k, I owe <$45k.

    The banker says these letters are system generated but there's been enough conflicting information to trigger some red flags. Should I file an affidavit of heirship with MultCo? Hire an attorney? I could not locate the heirship document or much information on the the county courthouse web site.

    • Tim,

      I am sorry you lost your wife. You do not need anything from the court. The original deed listed you and your wife (as “husband and wife”) as the owner, so (as you state) the house passes under Oregon law to you by right of survivorship. Nothing is required on your part to make this happen. If the bank is worried that the chain of title (on the county’s deed records) will have a “gap,” you might record a death certificate. But other than that, you should not have to do anything.


  74. (Oregon) My last remaining parent died last month. Her will was from 1991 and in that year she also gave her attorney, a signed deed for him to record at the time of her death (to me). She mentioned the request in a letter to him and in her will of the same year. Can that property pass to me without being probated?

    • The answer is “probably.” Provided the county records the deed, the chain of title will show you as the owner. When you sell the property, the title company may discover that the deed was recorded after the parent died, and question whether the transfer is vulnerable. For example, if the will says the house (perhaps as part of the residue) goes in a different direction, the title company may be reluctant to insure your title to the property. But it is a “what have you got to lose” situation in recording the deed and assuming it will “work.”


  75. Hi David,
    My father did have any assets and was on disability, he had a will and has appointed me in it. He has a safety deposit box which is unknown if there is anything inside, I filed with court and published in the paper, it says the deadline to file a petition is 11/06/15. I have 4 brothers. My question is if nobody files a petion by the date mentioned, does that automatically make me the administer of estate

    • Krystal,

      If you have petitioned the court to appoint you personal representative, and the judge has signed the order, then you are personal representative. There is no waiting period, etc. What do you mean by “I filed with the court?”


  76. My great aunt passed away at 98 years of age in Multnomah County Oregon in 1996. She and her sister, who passed in the 1960’s, are the owners of record of the fee estate of a small lot of land in Tillamook County. The lot tax assed value is $3,000. The taxes are $39 per year. Prior to and following my great aunt’s death I I paid the property taxes on the property, initially under a power of attorney and for the past 19 years the tax statement has been addressed to me. My aunt died intestate. To the best of my knowledge she has five living great nieces and nephews.Is there any process of Oregon law that you’re aware of I might file to obtain title to the land that would cost less than $3,000?

    • You can use a small estate affidavit to transfer title. Many of the Oregon counties have a preprinted form that can be accessed online. I believe you can file the small estate affidavit in Multnomah or Tillamook counties.

  77. I have lived with my mother since June of this year, and she just passed away on 10/24/2015. I quit my job to be her caretaker in Sept, and am currently unemployed. She has a will that states that I inherit her home, which is a manufactured home that she owned free and clear. However, she had a credit line and credit card, totaling around $17,000. Also, the home unfortunately resides in Washington county.

    I know I need to file a small estate affidavit with Washington county, which I will do shortly. I think I have to wait until 30 days have past first. My bigger concern, though, is if the debtors can require me to sell the manufactured home to settle the debt. I was thinking they couldn’t since it is my primary residence. Is that true? I feel like I need to know soon because it is important to me to live here, and maybe I should set my sights a little lower in the job search if I need to be employed sooner rather than later in order to obtain a small mortgage to payoff the debt.

    • Laura,

      The actual transfer is relatively simple. I think a manufactured home can be transferred with a one-page State of Oregon form, similar to that used for a motor vehicle. Thus, you may not need to do a small estate affidavit, which is more complicated.

      Oregon’s bankruptcy laws do contain an exclusion for a limited amount of equity in a home. If you incurred the debts and owned the house, you would be entitled to the exclusion. But the debts are your mother’s and you won’t own the house until it is transferred to you. Thus, the ultimate question is whether the exclusion applies to creditors’ claims against a probate estate. There should be numerous court cases on the subject. I am an inactive lawyer and not licensed to practice. I can provide names of attorneys for referral, if you wish.


      • Thank you so much. I would’ve gone down the complete wrong path. I will do the other form instead and look into the other matter regarding the equity exclusion. I don’t mind making payments once employed, but I didn’t want to lose my home in the meantime.

  78. Can 401k be included in small claim affidavit and if so, it is more beneficial to not include them and have the holder of the 401k close account to beneficiary? Will there be taxes to the beneficiary on the 401k due to death of the holder either way?

    • Summer,

      A small estate affidavit covers only “probate” assets, meaning assets that do not pass by right of survivorship (such as a joint account) or a beneficiary designation. A 401(k) is not affected by a small estate affidavit; instead, the beneficiary designation is controlling. The death of the holder does not ordinarily accelerate income taxes on a 401(k) or IRA.

  79. Mr Stretcher…. I am so glad I have found your site…. you explain things so well. I am in Kitsap County, WA . My daughter died unexpectedly in Oct. I was named executor in her will. I talked with an atty, and he said I would have to go through probate, as the value of her portion of their house was worth $100,000. And that I would have to Quit Claim the house to her surviving spouse. That didn’t make sense to me, but did have him file for Probate. The rest of her estate was not worth much, or had a named beneficiary. After the initial papers were filed and taken care of, I have been taking care of everything. My research seems to show that since they owned their house together ” as Husband and Wife” , that the house automatically became solely his upon her death. ( This is what I thought should happen). Am I misunderstanding this? I don’t totally trust this atty as he admitted he hadn’t done much estate/probate work.
    Are there forms that need to be filed? Re: the house. I think I have everything else taken care of and just waiting for a death certificate.
    Thank you for any help or advice.

    • Donna,

      If your daughter lived in Oregon (and owned Oregon real property), the house would automatically pass to the spouse. But Washington is a community property state, so there is no automatic survivorship unless the deed says something like “as community property with right of survivorship.” You are probably stuck doing a probate.


      • I am doing probate. I have a form to fill out, giving/quitclaiming 50% interest to the surviving spouse. I am assuming that that needs to be filed in the courthouse, but is there anything else that needs to go with it…. do I need to talk to someone in Title company? ( for name change)…

        • If you are signing a deed, the deed must be recorded. If you are disclaiming a share of the estate, the disclaimer must be filed in the probate proceeding.

  80. Complicated situation:

    My daughter’s paternal grandmother died, with a will stating her estate be split equally between grandchildren.
    She was not aware of my child due to her being a result of an affair with her son.
    What are my child’s legal rights and what steps do I take for her?

    • Marm,

      Your daughter is entitled to the same share as the other grandchildren. She should notify the executor that she is a grandchild and make sure the executor lists her as a beneficiary in the probate filing. Do you believe the executor will deny your daughter’s status? Does the executor know about your daughter?


      • The executor is actually her father.
        I believe he will continue to try to hide the fact that she exists, so now I’m worried about what the next possible steps would be

        • Send a letter to the executor and your daughter’s siblings advising them of your daughter’s status. If he has commenced a probate proceeding, send the same letter to the executor’s attorney and file a petition with the court if the probate filings omit mention of your daughter.

  81. I have offered to buy a condominium in Oregon. The owner died just 2 months ago and the title company preliminary report says: “We find no record of Probate Proceedings in this County for said decedent. We do,however, find a Small Estate Affidavit of Claiming Successor.” So, how do I get clear title in this situation (basically what is the assurance that the heirs have the right to sell it) and is it too soon for the heirs to sell it to me?

    • You can purchase the house from the “claiming successor” under the small estate affidavit, provided all of the beneficiaries of the decedent’s estate sign off on the conveyance. I would contact the small estate affiant and determine how many beneficiaries there are. Assuming only a few people are beneficiaries, the purchase should not be very cumbersome.

  82. My stepfather passed away in July 2013. A very simple will was drawn up, signed, impartially witnessed, and notarized in July 2013 after he learned of his terminal diagnosis. He appointed my mother the executor and sole beneficiary, aside from one specific personal item for each of his biological children with the specific intent that they couldn’t say he forgot them in error and contest the will to cause trouble for my mother (he hadn’t had contact with his adult children in years and the limited contact before that was very strained). We were told at the time of death that we didn’t need to file probate or small estate paperwork because everything was jointly held in his and my mother’s name (a bank account and an old boat) and would automatically transfer to her. There was a small life insurance policy she was the sole beneficiary of. He had no debt aside from a vehicle loan solely in his name (she sold the vehicle to one of his relatives for the amount of the loan to get rid of the debt). Now, 2-1/2 years later his daughter is claiming to have a will he made on the day he died that she wrote saying he asked her to and then saying he signed it. She says she “just remembered” it existed and wants everything listed in it. We do not believe this paper exists, and if it does, that it is a new creation she made and that he had anything to do with its creation, especially considering three days prior to his passing he was placed into hospice care with high doses of narcotics and sedatives for pain control. He was no longer able to speak, swallow, or even be awake. He would not have been deemed competent by any measure. We feel she is just trying to stir up trouble out of the blue to hurt my mother and try to bankrupt her, which she has threatened multiple times since his passing (we saved the emails and screenshots of her posts on social media). My concern is that my stepsister is going to try to file probate (as of this morning there is no record of any being filed) with her “will” and cause my mom all sorts of legal fees she cannot afford to pay. She is elderly and living on SS and some assistance from me to cover her monthly expenses as it is. My stepfather had no personal assets unless you count his clothing and wedding ring. My mother already sent the specifically named items to each child along with his old photo albums of them as children. Under Oregon law can a handwritten, non-notarized and unwitnessed paper serve as a legal will and invalidate a legally made, witnessed, and notarized will dated roughly a week earlier?

    • Oregon just passed new legislation that “forgives” technical defects in certain wills. Having said that, I doubt that any court in any state would probate the will you have described. I would not worry about your sister. Her efforts will be futile. Further, I doubt any attorney would take her case.

  83. My mother lived in Oregon and passed away a year ago. She was insolvent after a long battle with brain cancer. She owned a house, but had a mortgage on it that is more than the property is worth. She had a very small amount of other credit debt, but those creditors were notified and have not attempted to collect on the debt. She had no will and no assets. Since she had no assets and only the house that no one wanted, no one in the family filed anything with the courts. At this point, I have decided I would like to keep her house. I have spoken with the bank and it seems possible, but they need me to be named through the court as the person legally appointed to contact them in regards to this house. What is the least legally complicated way I can do this?

    • If the gross value of the house is less than $200,000, you can file a small estate affidavit. Otherwise, you have to do a full probate. Another alternative (and maybe the best one) is to purchase the house after foreclosure. Under that route, the debt will be gone. The bank may allow you to live in the house rent free (for security purposes) while the foreclosure is pending.

      • The gross value of the house is less than $190,000, the loan is $220,000. I will not be in a position to buy the house in my name after foreclosure, but I understand I can take over my mom’s payments. The bank has also said that they can do a modification once I have court-appointed authority to speak with them about the house. I have a sister and brother who do not want any part of this “underwater” house. Once the Small Estate Affidavit is filed naming me as the heir to receive 100% of the house, will that be the end of their claim to house? My concern is that if I pay the loan, which will remain in my mom’s name, for the next 5 years and the house builds equity then I decide to sell it, will any of the other heirs be able to step forward at that time and have a claim to the equity that has built up?

        Also, my mom had a store credit card for approximately $1400 when she died. The creditor was notified of her death and for the past year has not sent any more statements or correspondence. Do they still need to be listed on the Small Estate Affidavit and notified?
        Thank you.

        • Make sure your siblings sign off on quitclaims deeds, which you should record.

          If you want legal closure on the credit card debts, you must notify the creditors. If you tell them there is nothing, they should go away. (The small estate affidavit should demonstrate that the net estate is zero.)

          • On the Small Estate Affidavit, do I put the value of the house currently or at the time of my mom’s death? If this takes a few months, it may exceed $200,000 as values are rising quickly in this area.

          • Use the date of death value. The court is not going to appraise the house and fight you on this.

  84. My mother recently passed (Dec). She left a will and appointed me Executor, my three siblings declined, and they protested Mom making me Executor. The will is notorized and witnessed. The will is short and fair,.i.e., any funds left over to be divided equally. She has no savings, only enough in checking to pay final bills on utilities and hospital ins co-pays. Her 25 year old mobile home is paid for, is in a 55+ park with monthly fees. She also owes Oregon tax of over $13k on property tax forgiveness. The realtor hopes to sell home for his fees and taxes. Furniture and clothing are only assets. Am I required to file any doc with Oregon probate courts or do I have hire an attorney? Thanks

  85. My mother recently passed (Dec). She left a will and appointed me Executor, my three siblings declined, and yet protested Mom making me Executor. The will is notorized and witnessed. The will is short and fair,.i.e., any funds left over to be divided equally. She has no savings, only enough in checking to pay final bills on utilities and hospital ins co-pays. Her 25 year old mobile home is paid for, is in a 55+ park with monthly fees. She also owes Oregon tax of over $13k on property tax forgiveness. The realtor hopes to sell home for his fees and taxes. Furniture and clothing are only assets. Am I required to file any doc with Oregon probate courts or do I have hire an attorney? Thanks

    • George,

      In order to transfer legal ownership of the mobile home to the buyer, the children must sign off on an inheritance affidavit. This does not require a probate. So you may be able to get by without a court filing. Ask the realtor if he knows about the affidavit. Otherwise, I can give you a link.


  86. My mother-in-law passed away in October 2015. She left no will. She had two children. My wife was listed on my mother-in-law’s bank account. My mother-in-law only has about $2,000 in the account and nothing else besides her belongs from her apartment. Looking through her bills she owes about $4,500. She had a $7,000 life insurance account as well as a cancer policy. Since she did die of lung cancer we are considering filing a claim. They pay money to survivors for things like medical visits, hospice stay, etc. However, to receive a check over $1,000 my wife needs to file a Small Estate Affidavit. We estimate we could receive $5,500 from this cancer insurance. If we file the Small Estate Affidavit would we become liable for her unpaid bills?

    • Jim,

      Yes, to the extent of the proceeds. Under ORS 114.545(1)(d), the person filing the small estate affidavit must pay claims and expense in the order of priority prescribed by the Oregon probate laws.

      A more important question is: Who is the named beneficiary of the cancer policy? If it is the estate, you need a small estate affidavit. If it is one or more individuals, you do not.


  87. My mother died in May 2015. I was the appointed executor in her will. I did not probate as she had nothing. Her funeral expenses were $3000 and her liquidated personal property was $2900. My sister went off her rocker,giving me and my sons death threats, telling my mom on her death bed she didnt love her, accused me and my brother as stealing. And because i am on ssi she turned me in for the $2900 to social security. Even though the funds were paid out for funeral expenses, social security fined me $2000. Now i find out that a class action settlement is being offered to moms estate. What do i do, do i have to open probate for the settlement? Is it automatic that my sister would get to benefit from mom? Do i need to hire an attorney at this point? The lawsuit lawyers are already taking 50% of the settlement,

    • Vickie,

      Do you have an idea of the amount of the class action recovery? I am trying to determine if it makes financial sense to incur the cost of a small estate affidavit or probate. If the recovery is only $500, it’s not worth it. Why didn’t Social Security just withdraw the overpayment (electronically) from her cash account? Or are you confusing social security with the Oregon Department of Human Services, which is trying to recover the cost of public assistance provided to your mom?


      • The gross settlement is $80,000, with 50% going to attorneys. This was an agreement that my mother had made before she died. Mother had no money, i made the mistake of depositing the funds from her sale and then had cashiers checkss cut the funeral home, out of my account. Social security disallowed all funeral costs. Im on ssi so could not have more than $2000. After talking to my brother we have decided to accept the offer but i have no idea what to do. If i set up a bank account with my name the will count all of it as mine.

  88. Dave,
    My paternal Uncle recently passed away in Portland, Oregon. He was divorced with no children. My paternal Grandmother is living and we know that she is the intestate heir as we do not believe that there is a will. He was renting an apartment and owned no real property. He owned various musical instruments, two older model vehicles, and we believe a checking account with the proceeds from the sale of his home. He was in poor health for the past few years and has not been employed and has been living off of the proceeds from the sale of his home. We reside in Georgia and are wondering about what steps we need to take in order to begin the probate process. Is it permissible to sell the musical instruments or other personal property before the estate is in probate or before she has been appointed the official heir? We are not sure if his checking account has a payable on death beneficiary and are not even sure of the banking institution, we will hopefully figure this information out when we are in Oregon handling the disposition of his personal property. Is it necessary to go to probate for anything other than the title to the two vehicles and the checking account?

    • Lauren,

      The vehicles can be transferred by your grandmother without probate by signing off on a DMV Inheritance Affidavit. If the bank accounts are less than $25k (see ORS 708A.430), they can be transferred by the grandmother without probate by signing an affidavit that the bank should be able to provide. If the accounts are less than $75k, a small estate affidavit can be used to transfer them. (This is basically a one page probate.) If the accounts are over $75k, a full probate is needed. Technically, the grandmother has no power over the personal property, since this is a probate asset. However, if you are certain she is the sole intestate heir, there should be no complaining party if she sells the items.


  89. Question: We reside in CA; however, our Father resided in OR. Our father recently passed away Intestate. We believe my father’s cousin has a hand written note from our father giving him items from a safe (We currently assume it contains firearms). The note would have been written in California; however, it would not be notarized nor signed by any witness. Would his cousin still be entitled to those items in the safe under those circumstances in the state of OR?

    We believe the estate is above $250K after appraising everything. Not sure if the estate $ makes a difference for this specific situation?

    • Jose,

      The first question is whether anyone opposes the cousin getting whatever is listed in the letter. If there is no complaining party, there is no point to analyzing the legality.

      Oregon does not have a holographic will statute, but the legislature recently passed a law that cures some defects in the execution of a will. The legal analysis depends on the contents of the note, I.e., whether it was signed, etc.

      But I would focus on the threshold question: Is there a complaining party?


      • Yes. He wants everything in the safe; however, he won’t show us the letter. Will only one signature stating he can have the contents in the safe by my father, be sufficient for the courts on an intestate situation to grant his request?

  90. My mother, a resident of Medford, Oregon, passed away last month. There is no will and very few assets. However, she had purchased her older single-wide mobile home on contract from an elderly man who died in early 2015. She had paid off the contract in 2013 and we found the title in her papers, but it was never “transferred” to her. Her name appears on it but the previous owner never signed it over to her completely or it was not filed as such. Since he is also deceased, how do we go about proving that she owned it? My siblings and I need to sell it so that we can pay for her cremation and final bills.

    Also, we are pursuing filing a small estate affidavit. Can we do this ourselves or should we get a lawyer? Does this require one of us to become a Personal
    Representative or something like that?

    • You should be able to do the small estate affidavit yourselves, without an attorney. The harder part is passing clear title to the buyer. I would try to identify the seller’s children and have them sign an inheritance affidavit transferring title to your mother. You are then in position to sell it.

  91. When buying property from an estate in Oregon, does buyer’s title insurance paid for by seller for the length of the time a small estate is open (I believe about 4 months) sufficient enough protection?

    • If you are the beneficiary of a policy of title insurance (insuring that you own the property in fee simple), you have all the protection you need. The title insurance company is on the hook if there are claims, etc. down the road. You should carefully review the exceptions to title (on the title insurance coverage) to make sure that there are no problematic exclusions from coverage.

  92. Our father just passed away on the 16th of JAN 2016. On the 19 of JAN. 2016 SOMEONE in the family went into the bank and closed the accounts (not the representative) . we need that money to pay for Dads funeral and bills. What do we need to do to get these reopened?

  93. My Mother died and there is a wrongful death suit that is close to settlement. When the case was filed, she was survived by my stepfather, three adult sons and two adult daughters (including myself). She is now survived by two adult sons and two adult daughters. The three sons who were surviving when the case was first brought into action are offspring of my stepfather (deceased). One of my stepbrothers and I are personal representatives of my Mothers estate. Does my deceased stepfather receive a portion of the settlement that would be dispersed to my stepbrothers? (added to their equal share) Does my deceased brother receive a portion of the settlement that would be dispersed to his two adult children?

    • You should talk to the personal injury lawyer about how the settlement will be allocated. The allocation is based on the loss to each individual, which is not the same as shares under the Oregon law of intestate succession. Allocation can be a contentious matter.

  94. My mother was a resident of Portland, OR. She passed away intestate without a living spouse and with three living children, all adults. Her only property of value is a house that is worth about $190,000, and is nearing foreclosure with a loan of $226,000 including past due amounts. I would like to save her property from foreclosure and need some kind of official paperwork stating that I am the person the bank is legally allowed to deal with. My siblings do not want any part of the property, as it currently has negative equity. I am planning on filing a small estate affidavit and quitclaims from each of my siblings. In filling out the small estate affidavit, is it required that I name all three of us as having equal shares due to our mother dying without a will? Or can I name myself as getting 100% of the property and my siblings as getting zero? (again, they both agree to this.) And, can I file quitclaims with them as grantors and me as grantee to a property that none of us are on the deed, or do I need to wait to file the quitclaims until something has been filed to amend the deed to include me as the heir? Thank you.

  95. My wife’s father died last Sept of 2015. My wife is the successor trustee of his Trust and is currently closing out his estate. He owned properties in both Ca. and Oregon. The Oregon property has been willed to my wife and I, and we are just at the step of taking the “Personal Representative Deed” to the local courthouse to be filed. I did this successfully when my own parents passed away. With the current situation, my wife is trustee of the Trust, so the property in Oregon is being removed from the trust and will be transferred to my wife and I as grantees. I am perplexed this time about correct wordage on the deed. At top left, for grantor, do we need to list his name and the name of the Trust, or just his name? My other question is whether in the section below “Personal Representatives Deed”, does she sign just her name in the appropriate spaces, or does she need to sign “trustee” after her name? I’d like to do this correctly from the onset, as the courthouse is a good distance from my home. Thank you.

    • Kevin,

      Use an Oregon bargain and sale deed.

      Wording should be: Peggy Snow, Successor Trustee of the Robert Smith Revocable Trust DTD 06/25/2009, as Grantor, conveys to Kevin Snow and Peggy Snow, husband and wife, as Grantee.

      You should also record a death certificate along with the deed.


  96. My Dad lives in Oregon and has a Will not a Trust. He’s in his 80’s and his estate is worth over a million. Our Mom passed years back and he has since remarried. I am the executor of his estate. There are four of us. His Will says to distribute 15% to each of us over the course of how ever long it takes until his estate has been dissolved. He has a duplex that our youngest brother has been living in for over 30 years and if he wants this duplex that would be his inheritance per the Will. Is this a Will that needs to go through probate? and IF we all agreed, could we contest and have ONE distribution made to each of us vs. dispersing 15% every year as his will states? He is not seeing that all would be better served if he had a Trust. Thank you for any information you can give us!

    • Janet,

      First, the easy question. Yes, the will would go through probate.

      It is very unusual for a will to to provide for multiple distributions of 15%. Perhaps you are not reading the will correctly. The normal structure is to make the 15% distributions — once — when the estate closes. You can always change the distribution provisions under the will if all interested parties consent in writing.


  97. My Mother has Alzhiemer’s Disease and her health is rapidly declining. Her death could occur at any time. I am listed in her Will (drafted by an attorney) as the personal representative of her estate. All her assets (over $1 million) are in a mutual fund company and my parents listed their 3 children (I am one) as beneficiarys (33%, 33%, 34%) directly in each account. The mutual fund company plans on releasing the funds direct to the beneficiaries within 30 days of the notice of her death. The problem is Oregon has an estate tax and the PR is required to pay the tax “prior to distribution to beneficaries”. I will then be forced to try an recover the share of estate taxes owed by each sibling which could be a problem. Any advice on my options here? How do I recover the taxes from my siblings? Other alternatives?? Thanks for any help.

    • Tom,

      Oregon law gives an executor legal authority to recover each beneficiary’s pro rata share of death tax. In other words, the executor can sue to recover the funds and the beneficiary has no defense. Do you anticipate that one or more siblings will refuse to ante up? You might warn them in advance not to spend all of the money, although the tax bill should consume only a modest amount of what they receive.


  98. My attorney filed paperwork on March 2, 2016, naming me PR in Washington County. In a few days – a month will have passed. How long do papers sit on a Judge’s desk? I am considering a trip to the Courthouse. Will that help?

    • No, it won’t help. Washington County is the least user friendly (i.e., hostile) county in the state, and has been so for many years. Good luck. Dave

  99. Dave,

    My mother, who lived in Oregon, died leaving a mobile home on a 99-year leased lot in Washington. I am listed as the PR in her will and the will leaves this ‘real estate’ to me. I am trying to get the title transferred to my name and the recorded property deed as I will owe property taxes on the value of the home/property, but am being told that her will needs to go through probate in Washington for this to happen. The value of the mobile home/property is less than $50k and her other assets are around $20k. I am confused because it would seem like the small estate affidavit would be the correct paperwork in Oregon, but does that not work because this real property was located in Washington? Do I need to file in both the county that she died in in Oregon as well as the county where this property was in Washington? Thanks for guiding me in the right direction.

    • Jay,

      I have not checked WA law lately, but Oregon law allows a mobile home to be transferred at death through a one page affidavit without probate, just like a motor vehicle. I suspect that WA has a similar procedure for mobile homes. I would contact the licensing bureau for mobile homes and ask about expedited means of transferring mobile homes at death.


  100. Hello,

    My Uncle died in Oregon. He left a will and has an executor. The three inheritors are my 2 brothers and myself. The attorney is saying that all cousins must be notified of his death. That, even though we are not contesting who gets what of the household property, we must itemize all the content and to ensure that it is divided equally. We have the three of us chosen the items we want, and compiled a list. The items we don’t want will be given to a non-profit in Oregon. The attorney says we must have an itemized list and basic amount of donation with a copy for each inheritor. (This is fine and I have complied) The problem is that first: they are saying we must compile a list of the things we want and a value to ensure that we each have an equal amount or the one who took less of the personal household items would be financially compensated. We 3 as the inheritors don’t care about this we are happy with the division and all agree that no further compensation is required. Is that okay or must we comply and provide a valuation for items that we chose to keep? For instance the guys took 3 gun safes between them. I don’t care. I’m taking the furniture that was built by our grandfather that my uncle had. And my brother is taking a painting that our mother painted. These really are difficult to value as they are sentimental and really are not worth much at thrift store valuation. Please advise. We all live in WA state and just want to sell the house as is. And take the things we want and give away the rest. Can we do that without having to be sure its equal? On the personal property.

    • Tracy,

      Notice must be given to everyone who would have inherited if your uncle had no will. If your uncle had no children or spouse, notice must be given to his siblings and descendants of deceased siblings. Are the cousins descendants of deceased siblings?

      If the three beneficiaries agree to divide the personal property among themselves, there is no need to itemize each item, etc. A one page piece of paper signed by all three people (that they have divided things equally) is quite sufficient. The lawyer is making this much harder than it needs to be.


  101. Hi,

    My stepfather was killed in an automobile accident and did not have a will. All accounts and insurance was held jointly with my mother or she was the sole beneficiary so it is my understanding she will retain these assets. The question is this: The driver that hit my stepfather was uninsured so my mother/stepfather’s insurance company has agreed to pay a $50,000 uninsured motorist claim. The insurance company instructed my mother to open a Probate account ( Grants Pass- Josephine County OR) so they can pay the claim. Will this open up the possibility that she will have to share this $50,000 with any heirs even though she was jointly on the insurance with her husband. Can she become the administrator of the Probate and retain all funds or does she have to go through a formal proceeding of notifying creditors/debtors (Really are none.. all bills are paid with no debt except mortgage) and heirs and pay them a percentage?



    • Justin,

      This is complicated. Wrongful death claims are payable to the damaged parties, rather than in accordance with Oregon probate laws. Thus, the persons who lost your stepfather’s companionship, etc. by reason of his death are entitled to the funds. However, Oregon law mandates that the plaintiff in a wrongful death case be the executor appointed by the probate court. The insurance company is sidestepping the issue of who owns the funds by insisting they be paid to the executor who will ultimately have to get court approval of the allocation. Your mother can probably handle this through a small estate affidavit, but she will need to get approval from all interested parties (including the stepfather’s children, siblings, etc.) on how the funds are allocated.


  102. My domestic partner of 6.5 years died unexpectedly. We were in the middle of doing all the will and retirement prep etc. Nothing was completed. I have a house full of our belongings. My partner’s children, because we were not married, were awarded the life insurance for death benefit. I have incurred a debt for his ceremonial and final expenses and there are other bills that need to be paid. The children have threatened me if I don’t fork over his belongings that they will take me to probate court. Is this a true thing, can the do that and will it cost them any money? They have legal right to the policy benefit, which isn’t much, and are getting their disbursements. They have not offered to reimburse me and when I asked for help it was not received very well. My partner designated me on our 403B. He died in testate and blah de blah. Is there anything I can do?

    • Suzan,

      Technically, the children are entitled to his belongings. These cases are ugly because (from a child’s perspective) it is hard to prove what exists and who owned it. It is the child’s word vs. the domestic partner’s word about what is on hand. I gather you were not a “registered domestic partner?”

      There is one other “catch.” The belongings are probate assets. Probate assets must first be used to pay creditors and expenses of administration (such as a funeral), and whatever is left over goes to the beneficiaries. I would tell the children that the belongings are subject to his debts and expenses. If they are unwilling to pay these items, I would continue to hold the personal property.


  103. Hello Dave Streicher,

    I am super impressed with your forum here. Really useful information, and you seem sensitive to these issues. it is so difficult to find a decent lawyer it seems, especially for matters such as these.

    I am going through a probate nightmare, only, it hasn’t even begun. I took care of my father in the absence of my two siblings who live here in town. Our dad had cancer that advanced very rapidly. i tried telling the sibs what was going on, what would happen, trying to prepare them for things, etc., but they are kind of dumb and they would not listen. i basically lived with dad when he was sick, stayed by his side for about three months. During that time, i prepared everything i possibly could for his care needs (like hospice and related services), and also, for post death, like organizing financial info, and making funeral arrangements. You see, i knew there would be a lot to do. My father is worth about two million, and was in denial about the state of his condition. i was always his “favorite”, but even i could not convince him to do a will or an estate plan. This results in an unfortunate and rare situation (i am guessing) where a $2 million dollar estate with a million dollar debt against it, is left with no will. dad finally allowed a POA document, which i drafted, and after three revisions, he would only appoint my brother – which was fine. Except, when the time came, my brother did nothing despite my pleading with him. Just before dad died, my sister came to the house. She thought I was being greedy as i was organizing things and discussing what they thought would happen with dad’s assets. SHe started spewing accusations that i was stealing, etc., and proceeded to force me out of dad’s house; changing the locks, and removing my healthcare rep status. i could not even visit him. they excluded me from funeral arrangements. Someone else was sitting in my seat at the funeral and during the arrangements, effectually taking my place. I discovered some time later that my sister had presented some type of document, which she forged or forced dad to sign. It was not honored by the bank, and due to the size of the estate, my idiot sister realized she needed an attorney and to go thru probate. my sister took something away from me that i will never get back; and immediately, she started going through dad’s things, selling them, and driving his brand new pick up truck, with a smile on her face as if she wasn’t the slightest bit impacted by his death and hadn’t the slightest respect for him, in his death. I told her to leave his stuff alone, but again she did not listen.

    My father died a full thirteen weeks ago and we have been in services with the lawyer for roughly 11 of those weeks. And, we each have a lawyer, which costs 275 dollars an hour each. i am told that though a PR has been chosen; paperwork has not been filed; which means that a 2 million dollar asset is just lying out there at risk, including a corporation, for which employees are embezzling and generally being unsupervised and unsafe – meanwhile, due to the family dynanic, i am still disallowed from doing anything until a document has been filed. i dont feel like my lawyer is doing anything for my side of things, considering what i have been through. I have all the information the attorney should need to submit to the court. I actually feel as if the two attorneys are in cahoots since they seem to be in in agreement with everything the other one does, and no one is objecting to the time that has elapsed with no paperwork in sight. Am i in the twilight zone here? Have you seen a situation like this, and what should i do?

    thanks in advance — Erin Blake

    • Erin, who is your lawyer?

      Perhaps you can provide me a copy of the latest email or letter that explains why your lawyer is doing nothing?


      • That is precisely my attitude about this and, i’d tell you whom it is, if this wasn’t a public forum — you’ll have to email me for those details! In any case, there is not one, but two attorneys on this case. They have transferred all of of dads life insurance into a trust account which apparently only they can access, as they are paid from it. Does this seem to make logical, ethical sense to you? I’m not sure what to do now…but I may fire my guy today.

  104. I am hoping you can help me. My dad passed away in March and had a will with myself being named Executor. It is only my sister and I and I am confused on whether we need to go through probate. My dad has some property in two different counties in Oregon, all paid for. Also, a couple of antique cars. In the will it states who is to get what. My sister and I are not arguing about any property. Do we still need to go through probate??

    Thank you for your help

    • Kristin,

      The short answer is “yes.” As things currently stand, the title to the property is in limbo and there is no one with legal authority to convey the properties to you and your sister. A will, by itself, does not confer legal authority on the named executor. Authority is created by probating the will and getting you appointed executor by the court. Let me know if I can help you.


      • Thank you….this is all new to me.
        How do I get this started? Where do I go? I’m sorry, I have never had to deal with this and I appreciate you helping me.


  105. My friend’s parents died suddenly in Oregon. The two siblings (co-executors) found a probate lawyer since the estate is sizeable. The lawyer mentioned that they would have to get a second lawyer from another firm (one for mom’s estate and one for dad’s estate) so that there was no conflict of interest in the court’s eyes. Is this a common practice in this circumstance? And if so, can you explain in layman’s terms.

    • Bea,

      The answer depends on the circumstances of death. For example, if the husband’s negligence caused a fatal car wreck, the wife’s estate will have a claim against the husband’s estate (i.e., his insurance company) for wrongful death. In such a case, the same lawyer can’t represent both estates. What was the cause of death and was it simultaneous?


  106. My former husband (divorced 10/2015) passed away 1/28/16. Per the Will, I get everything. I was second in line regarding executor. The first named executor signed over his responsibilities to me, as he felt he could not uphold his duties. My question, because I’m the only beneficiary and executor, do I have to go through probate to be able to sell the house my former husband owned?

    • There are several considerations that may come into play.

      First, if your former husband signed his will before the divorce, it is generally deemed revoked by reason of the divorce. See ORS 112.135. Thus, you are deemed to have predeceased your former husband, and your gift under the will and appointment as executor are deemed revoked.

      If you can somehow avoid 112.315, you will generally need to go through probate. One exception. If the home is owned by you and your former spouse as joint tenants with right of survivorship, it will pass free of probate.


  107. My parents had a revocable trust which I have never seen of their sizable estate. The land in Oregon listed in the trust has already been transferred to my brothers. My father died in 2011 and my mother died May 1, 2016. Due to many factors there is no communication between two of my brothers that are executors of the trust and myself along with my older brother. My question is what becomes of my parents personal assets (i.e. Jewelry, furniture etc)? Thank you for your time.

    • Anne,

      The trust agreement specifies what happens to the personal property. Ask the trustees for a copy of the trust.


  108. My father is seriously ill, though it seems his mind is still in tact. He wants to redo his estate plan and wants to record his will with the County in which he lives. I work in the legal field, but have never heard of Wills being recorded. Is this a thing that is still done? I thought that is why Affidavit of Witnesses was done at the time of signing. Also if it isn’t normally done, is it possible? You see, while me and my siblings thin he is still of sound mind, there is beginning to be some doubt as he has become even more stubborn – like a dog with a bone and unwilling (able?) to change direction once his mind is made up. Thanks

  109. My mother passed away in 2003 leaving everything in equal division to my brother and me. Her property not in the best of shape and because my brother has no job and is on disability, we decided to leave everything the way it is and he would stay there. He has recently moved out and it is now time to sell the property but, as you might guess, I cannot sell it until it is in our names. In researching probate laws for WA, I discovered that because I did not file the will with the courts, I can be assessed 5% monthly penalty. Can this really be true?

    • Donna,

      I am not aware of the 5% penalty, but I am no longer licensed in Washington and cannot give advice on Washington laws.

      Before you go to the bother of commencing a probate, you should contact a title company and determine if they will insure title to the purchaser without a probate. Often they will. You will execute quitclaim deeds running to the purchaser and pay an enhanced title insurance premium. But you will avoid the time and expense of probate.


  110. Dave,

    My godmother, who is also my mother’s cousin, died in October 2013. My entire life she told me that I was her sole heir (she never had any other children). She was preceded in death by her mother, my great aunt, by about two weeks. After both passed away, my godmother’s brother became the executor of the estate.

    I have never seen a copy of her will, although she told me numerous times verbally that I was her heir. I never received any notification of any kind after her death… from her brother or from Oregon probate court. I never saw notices in the paper because I live in Idaho.

    Is there any way to find out if she had a will? And at this point in time (nearly 3 years since her death) is there any hope to recover any of her estate if she indeed did will it to me?

    The estate passed to my (now deceased) godmother and her brother is likely worth $1M or maybe a bit more. Mostly in real estate that is still held by her brother. I have (probably foolishly) never pressed him about it or asked to see her will.

    Thank you for any advice you can provide.



    • Jennifer,

      You should contact the court where your godmother resided and determine whether a probate proceeding was commenced in that county. If so, the original will is in the court file and you can get a copy.


  111. My father died on 6/18/14 with over 1.8 million in bank accounts plus multiple properties. Years before his death he had told everyone he had a will, but at the end of his battle with cancer he announced that he did not have a will and that all his assets were in he and my stepmother name. However my father married my step mom before he divorced my mother and I have the paperwork to prove it. My step mom legally goes by our last name and they were together over 35 years, but as I understand it the state of Oregon does nor recognize common law marriage and neither does Alaska, the state they were “married” in. There is also a question of if my father was capable of making clear decision before his death as some of the things he did were things no competent person would do. I was witness to my stepmother saying multiple times during my father’s illness that if my father didn’t do this or that then she would put him in a home, and I have a strong suspicion that she also threatened him directly to get rid of his will.
    My stepmother promptly shut me out when my father died, and has since been spending my father’s money like water on travel for herself and my half siblings. I should have asked for probate to happen at the time of my father’s death, but the pain of the situation was so great at the time I was unable to deal with it. My beloved brother (my only full blooded sibling) committed suicide last month. He had traveled down to be a full time caregiver for my father the last few months of his life even through my stepmom, half brother and half sister were also in the house but could not be bothered to help. My brother also spent an entire month helping my step mom get her financial records and taxes in order after my father died. My father had carried a loan on my brothers house and he had faithfully made payments since my father’s death, but two weeks before my brother killed himself I’m told that he asked my stepmother to sign off/forgive the loan and she did. My father also bought my half sister a house and she has not paid the agreed upon payments on it. My younger half sister (she’s 23) recently bought a house too, which I suspect my step mom funded in large part. I have received absolutely nothing from my fathers estate- not even worthless family keepsakes like pictures from my childhood. I would like to start probate now, and I am hoping you can give me advice on how to go about it as well as what effect my siblings loans and step mothers spending since my fathers death will have on the proceedings. I reside in California so I would be trying to pursue my legal rights from out of state.

  112. Oregon Question. Does the following require Probate. I understand that if it does, it would be a Small Estate Affidavit.
    Desceased has a will, (2 adult children), 1 is the executor and sole heir, the other has had long history of conflict and theft from deceased and left out of the will because of it. Deceased has under $1000 in bank accounts (bank account is joint owned with sole heir and executor, signed over his car (over a month before his death to the sole heir, because he could not drive anymore), only possessions to inventory are normal household items of little value, (less than what his funeral expenses will be), but he owes $3500 in back taxes to state and $35,000 in back taxes to IRS and about $10,000 to various medical offices (many of which are already in collections). Does Probate need to be opened to handle all of the debt? Or will just sending notification with a copy of the Death Certificate surfice. Do we still need to place a notice in the paper for unknown creditors?

    • Dan,

      It sounds as if the value of the probate estate is nominal. Opening a probate would ensure that the creditors receive any net proceeds of the probate assets (primarily personal property), but the attorney fees will probably exceed the proceeds. An heir who gets involved with this mess has nothing to gain and will endure dozens of threatening letters and phone calls asking to be paid with funds that don’t exist. I would run the other way. At this point, no one has any authority to act on behalf of the decedent, which is good. If I were an heir, I would do nothing.


  113. Hello Dave,
    Have a question about when probate is officially over or “closed”. My brother was the PR and committed grievous acts upon the estate. Yes, I could have filed an action to have him removed but felt it would end up costing way more than it would be worth. So when the Court in OR approved the final distribution amounts to myself and him he sent me a check. Also in the envelope was a short document that his probate attorney wanted me to sign, date and return stating that I had received all funds entitled to me. I did not sign it. Now two months later my brother sends me a text asking if I returned the document to the attorney cause attorney needs it to “close probate.” Is this type of document required to close probate? Thanks, Stephanie

    • Stephanie,

      Yes, your brother needs this “distribution receipt” to close the probate. I don’t know if refusing to sign and return it will provide any benefit. It will make your brother’s life more difficult, but I don’t think it allows you to litigate the alleged unlawful acts of your brother.


  114. My father passed away in August. His willed left his house to my older brother. Before passing he wanted his will changed to split the house equally between myself, my sister, and my brother. He died quickly after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.and the will was not able to be updated. My brother wants to rent the house and split the money monthly between all 3 of us. My brother has said if and when he sells the house he will split the money between the 3 of us equally. He is about to file a small estate affidavit since the houses value is less than $200k. The title is still in my dads name. My question is how could me and my sister get our names on the title with my brothers as 1/3 owners to protect our interest. Could my brother file a disclaimer of property for 2/3 of the property and list me and my sister as the other title holders? Could this be taken care of at the same time he turns in paperwork to Multnomah County recorders office or will he have to take title first then file a disclaimer of interest in property and add us later? If it is the latter would me and my sister have to pay gift taxes? Thanks for any help.

    • Matt,

      Your brother can solve this problem with the stroke of a pen. All he needs to do is sign a deed conveying 1/3 interests to you and your sister. It is a one page piece of paper and a $50 recording fee. No one has to pay gift taxes — unless their lifetime gifts exceed $5.49 million.


  115. My wife passed away in July 2016. It took 15 weeks to get the Death Certificate. I filed an Affidavit of Claiming Successor (Small Estate) with the Circuit Court. We have a house that was in her name only. I have provided the mortgage company with a copy of this affidavit and they have responded that I can receive “limited” information concerning the mortgage. I now have to show proof the estate is in probate before they will allow me to do anything further. How will I know if the estate is placed in probate? Do I have to place it in probate? She passed away intestate.

    • Alan,

      The small estate affidavit is the “probate” for this property. A “full probate” with letters testamentary is not necessary for this estate. You should tell the mortgage company that the small estate affidavit is the statutory procedure under Oregon law to transfer the property and that you have all the powers of a court appointed executor. I realize that banks are often impossible to deal with. You may have to refinance to discard the uncooperative lender.


  116. Dave,
    My father resided in Washington at the time of his death but owned an undeveloped property in Oregon. The size of his estate in Washington is small enough to avoid probate. Should the estate go through probate in Washington so as to be able to reference it for probate in Oregon to handle the property?

    • Mike,

      The short answer is no. There is no need to do a Washington probate. But the executor will have to go through an Oregon probate (or an Oregon small estate affidavit) to transfer the Oregon property. Oregon does not have ancillary probate laws. If an estate owns Oregon property, it must satisfy Oregon probate procedures without regard to Washington probate actions.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *