Jane Ellis Estate Law | Tips & Frequently Asked Questions
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Tips & Frequently Asked Questions

What can I expect from the probate process?

Many people are afraid to call an attorney as they are afraid of the probate process. In reality the probate process can easily be completed within six months. However, if you are not working with an experienced probate attorney your case may get off track. Oregon probate law requires that a specific procedure be followed. If one of the steps is overlooked the process can take longer.


The probate process begins with the filing of a petition with the Probate Court. The petition requests that a probate be opened and that a Personal Representative be appointed. A Personal Representative performs the duties of what many refer to as an “Executor”.   Within a few days of the filing of the petition the court will issue a judgment appointing a Personal Representative and issuing Letters Testamentary (if there is a Will) or Letters of Administration (if the decedent did not have a Will). The Letters certify the appointment of the Personal Representative. This is proof of the Personal Representative’s authority to deal with all aspects of the estate, including obtaining payments on insurance, paying bills, selling real property, accessing bank and stock accounts and any other duties that become necessary to administer the estate.


After the appointment of the Personal Representative notices are sent to all heirs and devisees notifying them of the death of the decedent, the appointment of a Personal Representative and how to obtain information about the case.


Oregon probate statues require publication of a notice to creditors. This puts any creditors on notice that they have four months to file a claim for payment of debts owed by the decedent.


Within sixty days of the appointment of a Personal Representative they are required to file an Inventory with the Court. The Inventory lists all of the assets owned by the decedent and their value as of the date of death.


After all the creditors have been paid an accounting is filed and the estate is ready for distribution.


This is a broad outline of the probate process. However, not all estates are the same and thus you should consult with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. If handled correctly you will see that the process is actually very efficient.

My father passed away. Do I need to file a probate?

A probate proceeding transfers title to property after a death. If someone dies and had property titled without a payable on death or beneficiary provision you will most likely need to open a probate proceeding to transfer title to the heirs or devisees.


However, before you know what needs to be done it is best to schedule an appointment with an experienced probate attorney to determine the best course of action. I will review with you all of the decedent’s assets and liabilities and advise you on the best solution for your situation.

My elderly mother is still able to get herself to medical appointments and seems safe in her own home.  However,  her utilities were recently shutoff for non-payment and I found out that she hasn’t filed her tax returns for the past few years. What should I do?

Since your mother is taking care of her medical needs and is living in an appropriate setting it sounds like you do not need a guardianship.  However, it appears that she could benefit from a conservatorship to handle her finances. A conservator will make sure the bills are paid on time and can file the prior years tax returns.