To become an Oregon executor, you have to file a petition with the probate court. The Nay & Friedenberg law firm says an Oregon court won't accept a legal minor, funeral director, disbarred lawyer or anyone the court deems incompetent. A felony conviction may disqualify you as well. If more than one qualified individual applies, the probate court's first pick is whoever the decedent named in the will. The spouse is the second choice.
Once the court appoints a personal representative, she has to take control of the decedent's property. She must identify all the estate assets and file a complete inventory with the court, with estimates of asset values. If the estate earns income -- money from a rental property, say -- the executor has to report the money to the court as well. The personal representative has to open a bank account for handling income and paying expenses. She must do all of this without ever mixing the estate's money with her own.
Read More: When Do the Assets Get Distributed After the Probate of a Will?
Paying the Bills
The executor must track down the estate's creditors and find out how much the decedent or the estate owes them. She must identify if any of the creditor claims are valid, and pay those. The personal representative also has to use the estate account to pay any money needed to maintain the assets, such as repairs on a house or car. She files the federal and state income tax returns for the decedent and the estate, plus an estate tax return if the estate is large enough. It's vital that she keep records throughout the process.
Asking for Help
If the executor feels out of her depth, she doesn't have to go it alone. The Oregon State Bar says it's common for a personal representative to hire an experienced probate attorney to walk her through the process. The executor also may need an appraiser, real-estate agent, accountant or other professionals to help. It's important to talk with the probate court judge about spending the money -- lawyer fees require court approval, for instance.
Dealing With Beneficiaries
The personal representative has to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries, and treat them all equally and impartially. Once the court makes the appointment, the executor should contact the heirs and inform them of the existence of the will. She should also give them her contact information, as well as her attorney's if she has one. When all the creditors are paid, the executor can, with court approval, start distributing assets to the heirs. She's entitled to take out a fee for herself, based on a percentage of the estate's value. The fee is 2 percent if the estate is above $50,000.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.