The attorneys with the Law Offices of Nay & Friedenberg explain how the Probate process works in Oregon.
Probate is the process in which the decedent’s last financial issues are resolved and assets are distributed to the decedent’s legal heirs or devisees of the will. The probate court appoints a Personal Representative (executor) and oversees the administration of the estate. An estate cannot be distributed without final approval of the probate judge. Creditors, heirs, and devisees are given opportunity to bring matters to the probate judge for final determination. Once the probate is closed, then creditors are prohibited from bringing additional claims against the decedent.
In order to initiate the probate process, a petition must be filed with the probate court along with the original will if applicable. When the decedent dies with a will, it is called a “testate” estate. If the decedent did not have a will at the time of death, it is an “intestate” estate and Oregon law determines who receives the distribution of all intestate estates.
The initial probate petition asks the court to appoint the Personal Representative (PR). The judge then signs an order naming the PR and the court issues “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration.” The Letters are the official court paperwork that the PR will need to conduct estate business. In some cases (mostly in testate estates), the PR must be bonded and so the court will not issue Letters until the bond is filed.
Oregon law requires that the probate estate be held open for at least four months and notice be given to interested persons (creditors and heirs). Legal notice must be published in the local newspaper and mailed to heirs and devisees. During that 4-month period, creditors should notify the PR about debts owed by the decedent. If a PR disputes a bill, the issue can be resolved in front of a probate judge if necessary.
The law requires that the PR file an Inventory of all probate assets within 60 days of appointment as PR. Once the PR is ready to close the estate, the PR must file an itemized accounting of all estate business. Therefore, the PR must keep detailed records of all money coming in and out of the estate account(s). Heirs, devisees, and unpaid creditors are entitled to receive copies of the accounting and notice of their rights to object. Objections to the accounting must be filed within 20 days. If an objection is filed, the court will schedule a hearing and the judge will make a final determination on any issue that remains in dispute. Once the judge approves the final accounting, the judge will also order the distribution of the estate.
Generally, the probate process takes about 6 to 9 months. After distributions are made, the PR must file receipts from each heir or creditor with the court. Once the court is satisfied that the estate has been properly distributed, it will issue a General Judgment closing the estate. The PR is then discharged from its duties.
Dealing with a loved one’s estate can be a difficult time for the family. An experienced probate attorney can help. Contact the Probate attorneys with the Law Offices of Nay & Friedenberg in Portland, Oregon at (503) 245-0894 to set an appointment.
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