After a person dies, the estate typically has to go through probate, a legal process in which a court oversees the distribution of assets and payment of debts according to the terms of the will. Although probate can sometimes be avoided through estate planning, it is often necessary. If you are facing the probate process, you probably have many probate court questions, including whether or not you can do it without the help of an estate planning attorney.

When Is Probate Needed?

Probate may not be necessary if assets can be transferred by other means, for example, using a living trust or a transfer-on-death deed.

However, when a will is used to indicate how a person wants his or her estate distributed, probate is needed to oversee the process. Probate is also necessary when there is no will and asset distribution must be handled according to state law.

What Are the Steps to Probate a Will?

During probate, someone will serve as the personal representative or executor of the will. This person is usually a surviving spouse or close relative. The executor of the will conducts an inventory of the deceased’s assets, pays any debts owed by the estate, and then distributes the remaining assets under the terms of the will, if there is one, and state law.

In Oregon, the probate process typically takes at least four months, and it may take longer. People who are owed money by the estate need to be given a chance to file a claim against the estate. Debts and taxes must be paid, and the court must give approval for the distribution of assets.

What Probate Court Documents Will I Need?

The probate process involves many forms that must be thoroughly and accurately completed and filed. This may include an official copy of the death certificate, as well as tax forms and a probate inventory that lists all assets and debts. When a guardianship or conservatorship is involved, additional forms may be required.

Can I Represent Myself in Probate Court or Do I Need a Probate Court Attorney?

The Oregon Judicial Branch warns that “Probate cases are often complicated. Handling them often requires knowledge about many different rules and laws, including banking and tax laws.” In Multnomah Country, under Supplemental Local Rule 9.085, anyone who wants to serve a personal representative, guardian or conservatory without a lawyer must meet with a judge to ask for approval first.

Most people simply don’t have the knowledge or experience needed to navigate complicated probate issues successfully. To avoid disputes and legal issues, it’s important to seek guidance from an experienced probate attorney.

A probate attorney can help with the process of paying debts and distributing assets. A probate attorney can also help with the tax issues that arise during probate. With the help of an experienced probate attorney, you can rest easy knowing that all forms have been accurately filed, and you can avoid costly and time-consuming probate mistakes. Need help? Contact us.