Full probate vs small estate in Oregon

It’s true: In Oregon, most estates have to go through probate. Except for a little thing called the small estate proceeding. What is the difference between probate and small estate in Oregon? Here’s what small estate is, why it matters, and how you and your attorney can figure out if an estate qualifies.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process through which an Oregon court oversees the settling of a deceased person’s estate. Typically, probate involves reviewing any will, making an inventory of liabilities and assets, and then settling the estate according to the terms of the will and Oregon law. Most estates in Oregon will go through probate. Unless…

What is the small estate proceeding?

Oregon estate law has a special provision that applies only to certain estates. This more streamlined process is known as the small estate proceeding, and it breaks down pretty much like this:

  • Personal property in the estate must have a value less than $75,000
  • Real property in the estate must have a fair market value less than $200,000
  • The total fair market value of the estate is must be no more than $275,000

Put simply, not every estate can quality for the small estate proceeding, particularly if real property is involved. If the estate’s values exceed to the limits above, the estate will have to pass through standard Oregon probate.

If the estate does meet the requirements for a small estate proceeding, going through this process still has requirements. The small estate proceeding can be a faster, cheaper way for an estate to be settled, though, and this and other reasons can make the small estate proceeding a more attractive option when settling an estate in Oregon.

Small estate timeline is typically faster than probate

In probate, the will must be filed with the court. Then, at least 4 months must pass in order for creditors to present themselves. In Oregon, probate takes at least 5 months, but 6-9 months tends to be the most common timeframe.

However, a small estate proceeding can begin in as little as 30 days after the deceased passed away.

Plus, while the small estate proceeding doesn’t require the 4-month period for creditor notice and discovery, the estate’s representative may still have to find creditors.

Do you need an estate attorney for a small estate proceeding in Oregon?

In a small estate proceeding, strictly speaking, a person does not necessarily have to be represented by an attorney. An attorney can often still be useful to advise on the process, ensure requirements are met, and be a voice in the room in the event of difficulties or disagreements. Someone involved in a small estate proceeding is not immune from lawsuits or being sued, however.

If the estate doesn’t go through probate, do the will’s instructions still have to be followed?

Yes. Even though a small estate does not go through formal probate, the instructions and parameters of a legally valid will are still in force and will need to be followed.

How do you file for a small estate proceeding?

In Oregon, beginning a small estate proceeding requires the following:

  • Pay a filing fee with the court ($124 as of October 2022)
  • Present an original death certificate
  • Present a legally valid will (if the deceased had a will)
  • If the deceased did not have a legally valid will, an Affidavit of Claiming Successor Intestate Estate must also be completed and presented
  • A list of all unpaid, undisputed claims or debts against the estate, as well as a mailing address so creditors may file presentation of their claims.
  • Estimates of expected expenses, such as legal fees and administrative expenses

A small estate proceeding can be conducted in the county where the person died, or in the county where the deceased had their real and/or personal property.

One copy each of the proceeding documents must also be mailed to the following:

  • Department of Human Services: Estate Administration Unit, Department of Human Services, PO Box 14021, Salem, OR 97319-5024
  • Oregon Health Authority: 500 Summer Street NE, E-20, Salem, OR 97301-1097

A small estate proceeding can provide a more streamlined alternative to standard probate in Oregon

The small estate proceeding gives Oregonians a way to manage and settle an estate with a less involved process than formal probate. However, many guidelines must still be followed, and the requirements of the small estate proceeding must still be satisfied.

Instead of having to pass through full probate, along with the additional expense and timeline that may be involved, the small estate proceeding can be a way to settle a small estate in a quicker manner.

Do you have questions about probate or small estate proceedings in Oregon?