and Probate Law Firm
Our clients oftentimes find themselves potentially headed into a probate matter or are unsure whether or not probate is required for their estate. In the following paragraphs, we will explain how probate works in Oregon and the issues commonly seen by an experienced Portland estate planning lawyer.
What is Probate?
Probate is the court process whereby an individual’s assets are transferred to the individual’s beneficiaries upon that individual’s passing. In the State of Oregon, probate can range anywhere from six months to a few years depending on the nature of the individual’s estate. The length of the probate is not always tied to the value of the estate, as large estates can sometimes go through probate quickly, while smaller estates can be stuck in probate for some time. The length of time a probate takes is based on many factors including the county it is filed in, the court’s docket, the number of creditors of the estate, any disagreements among beneficiaries and a host of other factors. Probate is also not an inexpensive process, as Portland probate lawyer fees can range from a few thousand dollars all the way up to tens of thousands of dollars.
Probate is sometimes a rocky process in the Portland metro area and will generally require the involvement of a Portland probate lawyer because specific court filings are required. A typical probate process will begin with the filing of a petition, allowing the individual’s estate to enter the probate process. Thereafter, a “personal representative” will be appointed for the estate, who will function as the executor of the estate and will be the “point person” for administering the individual’s estate with the courts. After this point, “letters testamentary” will be issued by the court if the deceased had a will and “letters of administration” will be issued for those who died without a will. These “letters” are used so that the personal representative has the authority to interact with third parties with respect to the decedent’s estate. Thereafter, the personal representative must perform a creditor search to seek out creditors of the estate. When the preceding steps (and a few others) are completed, the probate process is closed, the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries, the Portland probate attorney is paid their fees and the personal representative is discharged from their duties.
Important Assets Involved in Probate
For many of our clients, one of their primary assets is their home. The transfer of real estate upon death generally depends on how the property is titled. Generally, for a husband and wife, the property will transfer to the remaining spouse without the need for probate. However, if the property is not properly titled, then probate may still be necessary to transfer the property to the surviving spouse. Moreover, upon the passing of the last remaining spouse, the property must enter probate in order to transfer the property to the next line of beneficiaries, such as children. Beyond the home, other common assets, such as IRAs and mutual funds, can be structured in such a way so as to meet a client’s wishes and also avoid the probate process. Lastly, property such as motor vehicles can often pass without the need for probate but must go through certain steps with the State of Oregon in order to do so.
As an experienced Portland estate planning law firm, we try to avoid our clients’ estates entering the probate process for the aforementioned reasons. We have found that certainty is particularly important to our clients and we strive to attain it for them. As such, we generally set up living trusts for our clients which allow them to avoid the probate process, thereby allowing their assets to pass to their families without the need for court involvement. It is far more cost-effective as well, because probate attorney fees are avoided, which are generally far more than the cost of setting up a living trust.
As such, probate is sometimes a rocky process for clients. If you have any other questions about probate, please feel free to contact our Portland estate planning lawyer to assist you with your matter.
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