Probate laws are established by every state to provide a process through which property is distributed following a person's death. In Oregon, the state probate statutes are found in Chapters 111-115 of the Oregon Revised Statutes. These laws cover a wide range of issues, from how wills must be drafted to the procedures that apply to distributing estate property.
One of the most commonly encountered aspects of Oregon's probate law is provision for the use of last wills and testaments. Oregon Revised Statutes § 112.225 states that anyone can make a will as long as the person is at least 18 years old, or under 18 but married, and of sound mind. Further, Oregon Revised Statutes § 112.255 requires that all wills must be in writing and signed by the testator (person making the will) in the presence of at least two witnesses. The witnesses must either witness the testator signing the will or hear the testator acknowledge signing the will. The witnesses must then attest to witnessing the will by signing it.
Anyone who dies without a will in Oregon has her property distributed pursuant to the state's laws of intestate succession. A person without a will is said to have died intestate, and the laws of intestate succession dictate who receives property when this happens by establishing a hierarchy of beneficiaries based on their relationship to the deceased person.
For example, if a person dies leaving behind both children and a spouse, Oregon Revised Statutes § 112.025 states that the spouse receives all estate property unless any of the children are not children of the couple. If the child is the issue of the decedent but not the surviving spouse, the child receives half of the estate and the spouse the other half.
Further, Oregon Revised Statutes § 112.015 states that even if a person dies having left a will, any property not covered by the will passes in accordance to the laws of intestate succession.
The probate process starts after a person dies leaving behind property. When this happens, Oregon Revised Statutes § 113.035 states that any interested party can bring a copy of the will to the probate court in the county where the decedent lived or owned property. The court will then accept the will, or hold a hearing to determine its validity, and then name a person to distribute the estate property. This person either can be named in the will or chosen by the court, and is alternately called the executor or personal representative. Once the executor is named, he must account for all estate assets and liabilities, pay debts with estate property and then distribute remaining property in accordance either with the terms of the will or the laws of intestate succession.