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How to Avoid Probate in Oregon


Probate is a legal process that administers the estate of a deceased person. It can be complex, time-consuming and costly for many families in Oregon. On average, probate can take between six and 12 months to complete, and can cost anywhere from 2% to 7% of the estate’s total value. Here’s an overview of how probate works in Oregon, and how you could help your beneficiaries save time, reduce costs and maintain privacy. For more estate planning help, consider working with a financial advisor.

How Probate Works in Oregon

Probate is a legal process that involves administering a deceased person’s estate, proving the validity of their will (if one exists), identifying and inventorying their assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful beneficiaries. In Oregon, the probate process is overseen by the circuit court in the county where the deceased person resided. Probate becomes necessary when the deceased individual owns assets solely in their name, such as real estate, vehicles or bank accounts, and the total value of the probate estate exceeds $75,000.

The probate process in Oregon typically involves several steps:

  1. Filing a petition with the appropriate circuit court to open probate and appoint a personal representative.
  2. Notifying heirs, beneficiaries and creditors of the probate proceeding.
  3. Identifying, inventorying and appraising the deceased’s assets by the personal representative.
  4. Paying debts, taxes, and administrative expenses.
  5. Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or Oregon’s intestate succession laws.

The personal representative, who is either named in the will or appointed by the court, is responsible for overseeing these steps.

How Small Estate Probate Works in Oregon

A man reviewing his estate plan in Oregon.

Small estate probate, also known as summary probate, is a simplified probate process designed for estates that fall below a certain value threshold in Oregon. Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate, which involves identifying and gathering assets, paying debts and taxes and distributing remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries. This streamlined process offers a faster and less expensive alternative to regular probate, which can be lengthy and complex.

To qualify for small estate probate in Oregon, an estate must meet specific criteria regarding its total value and the types of assets included. Here, an estate may be eligible for small estate probate if its total value does not exceed $75,000 for personal property and $200,000 for real property. Additionally, the estate must not include certain types of assets, such as those held in trust or with named beneficiaries.

6 Ways to Avoid Probate in Oregon

 Being proactive about estate planning can help you avoid probate. Doing so early on can ensure a smoother transition of assets for your beneficiaries, minimize potential conflicts and provide peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be carried out efficiently. Here are six common strategies to help you avoid probate, or at least mitigate the costs of the process:

  1. Create a trust: In Oregon, revocable living trusts and irrevocable trusts are commonly used for probate avoidance. A revocable living trust allows the grantor to modify or revoke the trust during their lifetime, while an irrevocable trust cannot be changed once established.
  2. Owning vehicles or real estate: Jointly owning vehicles or real estate with rights of survivorship allows the asset to pass directly to the surviving owner upon the death of one owner, bypassing probate. In Oregon, this is known as joint tenancy with right of survivorship. For example, a married couple who owns their home as JTWROS will have the property automatically transferred to the surviving spouse upon the death of one spouse, without the need for probate.
  3. Buy an annuity: Annuities can be structured to avoid probate by naming beneficiaries who will receive the funds directly upon the annuity owner’s death. When beneficiaries are named, the annuity proceeds bypass the probate process and are paid out according to the contract terms. Fixed annuities offer guaranteed payments, variable annuities provide potential for investment growth and indexed annuities combine features of both.
  4. Create joint accounts: Creating joint bank accounts with rights of survivorship allows funds to pass directly to the surviving account holder upon the death of one owner, avoiding probate. This is a simple and effective way to ensure that the surviving owner has immediate access to the funds without court intervention.
  5. Designate beneficiaries: Designating beneficiaries on financial accounts, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts and bank accounts, allows these assets to be transferred directly to the named beneficiaries without going through probate. This process is known as a non-probate transfer.
  6. Fund retirement accounts: Funded retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, can bypass probate when beneficiaries are named. The account assets will be transferred directly to the designated beneficiaries upon the account owner’s death, avoiding the need for court intervention.


Bottom Line

A couple creating an estate plan to avoid probate in Oregon.

Probate can be emotionally and financially taxing for the family of the deceased, as they may have to wait months or even years to receive their inheritance. Additionally, the public nature of probate can be uncomfortable for families who wish to keep their financial affairs private. Therefore avoiding this process in Oregon help keep the deceased’s assets and debts out of public record, help beneficiaries get their inheritances within weeks rather than months, and potentially save money in court fees, attorney fees and executor compensation.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • A financial advisor who specializes in estate planning has the necessary expertise to help you manage your estate. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Consider the potential dangers of DIY estate planning before you try to do the work on your own. It can be vital that you have someone with the proper expertise on your side before making any decisions.

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