What is Probate?

Probate is the court-supervised transfer of property from a deceased person (decedent) to his or her heirs and beneficiaries. If the decedent had a will, the will specifies who receives the decedent’s estate. If the decedent did not make a will, state law identifies the heirs of the estate.

Probate is a complicated court process that typically takes at least six months. Our experienced probate attorneys can help you understand and complete the process in a timely, cost effective manner.

The Probate Process

The person who handles a probate for a decedent is known as the personal representative (sometimes called executor). If the decedent died having signed a will (testate) the document likely nominates one or more people to act as personal representative. If the decedent died without a will (intestate), then Oregon law provides priority for certain persons to serve.

Our probate attorneys can help identify the proper person to act as personal representative and work with them to open a court proceeding by preparing a petition. The petition is filed with the court and reviewed by a judge before the personal representative is given authority to settle the decedent’s affairs.

Initial steps to settle an estate

This checklist is in a printable PDF format and is intended to outline a number of basic steps you can take prior to meeting with an attorney. This checklist is not exhaustive and should not be substituted for proper legal advice from an experienced probate attorney.

Download Checklist PDF

Once appointed, the personal representative is generally tasked with:

  • Identifying and notifying interested parties that a probate has been filed.
  • Consolidating the decedent’s assets and preparing an inventory of assets for the court.
  • Identifying the creditors of the decedent’s estate and verifying that sufficient assets exist to pay all creditors.
  • Providing notice to unknown creditors of their right to claim against the estate by publication in a newspaper.
  • Filing final tax returns on behalf of the decedent.
  • Making any specific distributions of the decedent’s property set forth in the will.
  • As needed, the personal representative may seek court authority to sell property owned by the decedent.
  • Once creditor claims have been paid and taxes filed, the personal representative accounts for their actions to the court.
  • Upon approval of a final account, the personal representative may distribute remaining assets to the beneficiaries of the estate as outlined in the decedent’s will, or according to Oregon law.
  • The personal representative is entitled to be reimbursed for their expenses and compensated for their time.
  • A personal representative is a fiduciary—that is, they are managing money and assets that do not belong to them. For this reason, the personal representative must be thorough, detail oriented, organized, and act impartially towards creditors, heirs and beneficiaries.

As you can see, it is very important for the personal representative to have good legal advice to help them navigate this complex process. The Portland, Oregon Probate Attorneys at the Law Offices of Nay & Friedenberg LLC have represented hundreds of personal representatives, as well as heirs, devisees, creditors, and other interested family members involved in the probate process.

Contact us for more information.

“The Attorney and Legal Assistant I worked with were really helpful and were timely with email responses. They were both very engaged in hearing the details of my legal questions and issues. Offering thoughtful advice and options to consider.”

— Sally B.