What is Probate?
Probate is the court supervised administration of a deceased person’s estate, with the distribution of the deceased person’s assets (real or personal property) after paying all debts and taxes of the deceased, as directed by the person’s will (testate estate) or by the laws of the State of Oregon (intestate estate). The deceased person’s will is the document that sets forth the person’s desires as to who should be appointed by the probate court to serve as the personal representative/executor of the estate, the guardian and/or conservator for minor children of the deceased, and/or serve as the trustee of any trust(s) created by the will. The will also provides the instructions for the distribution of the person’s real and personal property by the probate court after the payment of taxes and debts.
When is a probate needed?
A probate proceeding is not always needed. Generally, when the first spouse dies all property, both real and personal property, passes by law to the surviving spouse if all bank accounts, real property, vehicles, and other property is titled in both names as joint owners with right of survivorship, and/or the other spouse is the named beneficiary of all life insurance policies, retirement benefits, and financial accounts owned by the deceased.
Real property includes land and buildings or structures placed on land, such as houses, commercial buildings and agricultural buildings. Personal property includes all other property, such as cars, boats, clothing, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, IRA’s, and personal items.
Some examples of when probate is needed are:
- To clear title to land, and/or to transfer real property solely in the deceased’s name to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries.
- Transfer stocks, mutual funds, bonds, IRA accounts, bank or savings accounts to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries.
- Collect debts owed to the deceased person.
- Settle a dispute between people who claim they are entitled to assets of the deceased person.
- Resolve any disputes about the validity of the deceased person’s will.
Where is a probate estate filed?
The probate of a testate or intestate estate may be filed in the circuit court of the county where the person died, where the person lived, or where the person owned real property in Oregon.
What is a small estate?
If the deceased person’s personal property is valued at no more than $75,000 and real property is valued at no more than $200,000, for a total aggregate estate value of no more than $275,000, Oregon law provides for an abbreviated procedure for handling the small estate. If an estate fits in this category, the cost and time for distributing the estate assets may be greatly reduced.