At the death of a person, his or her estate must be administered. Administration can be very simple in the case of a married person who passes away leaving a surviving spouse. In most instances, all of the interest of the deceased spouse passes by operation of law to the surviving spouse and nothing difficult or expensive is required. Administration can become much more complex in other situations.
A person who dies without any estate planning is deemed to have passed intestate. In that case, Oregon law dictates who is entitled to the estate, people who are known as “heirs.” In some cases, a person’s heirs are the same people that the decedent would want to inherit but that isn’t always the case. A person who dies with a will has named his or her beneficiaries who are known as devisees. These beneficiaries could be the same as the decedent’s heirs.
A probate is required where a deceased person has left assets in his or her name regardless of whether there is a will. In order for these assets to be transferred, a personal representative must be appointed by the probate court. The personal representative is charged with the administration of the deceased person’s estate, including payment of all debts and distribution of assets to those who are entitled to them.
If the deceased person died with a will, the probate is called testate. The will is admitted to probate, and its terms are carried out by the personal representative. The estate is ultimately distributed to the deceased person’s devisees.
If the deceased person died without a will, the probate is called intestate. The estate is admitted to probate. In an intestate proceeding, the personal representative has all of the same responsibilities, but ultimately the estate is distributed to the deceased person’s heirs.
The probate process requires payment of the estate’s obligations, filing of all necessary tax returns, sale or other liquidation of assets, and distribution of assets that remain to those who are entitled to them. A probate assures the assets are distributed free of all claims.
While there are probate filing fees and certain probate costs, there are no taxes or other fees that become payable to the government simply because probate is required.