A last will and testament is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (real and personal property) upon your death. Oregon wills permit the testator, the person writing the will, to provide for a spouse, children, other loved ones, and pets after his death as well as to name a personal representative for the estate.
Not to be confused with a will, an Oregon living will provides instructions should you become incapacitated and incapable of making decisions regarding your medical care.
Do You Need a Last Will and Testament?
Although a last will and testament is not legally required, without a will, state laws (called laws of intestacy) determine the distribution of an estate's assets. Because the outcome may not coincide with the decedent's (the person who passed away) wishes, it is generally advisable to create a last will and testament.
In addition to providing the opportunity to direct asset distribution, an Oregon last will and testament form also allows the testator to make a charitable gift, create a trust for any person, name a legal guardian for minor children, or create a “pet trust” in order to provide for the care of an animal after its owner’s death.
Before the terms of a will can be accepted, the will must be proven in probate court. Probate is the court-supervised process of distributing the estate of a deceased person.
In Oregon, the will must be proven and delivered to the appropriate probate court. The personal representative named in the will may then proceed with administration of the estate, which includes taking inventory of assets, paying debts, and distributing property.
Oregon also offers a simplified probate process for estates that are valued at less than $275,000 (personal property of no more than $75,000 and real property of no more than $200,000).
Intestacy: Dying Without a Will
Someone who dies without a will is called “intestate,” which invokes the strict laws of intestacy. In Oregon in the absence of a will, a surviving spouse inherits the entire estate eve if the couple shares descendants. The spouse’s share drops to half, however, if the decedent also has descendants not shared with the surviving spouse.
If there is no surviving spouse, descendants, or parents, other relatives, including siblings and grandparents, will inherit depending on the closeness of the relation.
Exceptions to Ability to Distribute Property
Not all property can be distributed according to a will. Some exceptions include the following:
Property owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship
Life insurance policy and retirement account proceeds
Assets held in a revocable living trust
Form a Last Will in Oregon
The basic requirements for an Oregon last will and testament include the following:
- Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old or have been lawfully married.
- Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind.
- Signature: The will must be signed by the testator or by someone else in the testator’s name in his presence, by his direction.
- Witnesses: An Oregon will must be signed by at least two individuals who saw the testator sign the will or heard him acknowledge the signature.
- Writing: An Oregon will must be in writing.
- Beneficiaries: A testator can leave property to anyone.
Changing an Oregon Last Will and Testament
A Oregon will may be changed at any time by codicil (an amendment to the will), which must be executed in the same way as a will.
Revoking an Oregon Last Will and Testament
The revocation of an Oregon will can be accomplished by executing a subsequent will or by burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying the document, done by either the testator with the intent and purpose of revoking the will or by someone else at his direction in his presence.
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