• Pixton Law Group


Starting in 2020, the Oregon legislature revised the rules for administering “small estates.” If you die after January 1, 2020, and your estate is a “small estate” - meaning that you own real property with value less than $200,000 and cash, savings and other personal assets valued at less than $75,000 - your heirs could avoid a more formal probate proceeding in court.

A small estate process is simpler and less formal than a full probate. Your spouse, or one of your heirs can file a special affidavit called an Affidavit of Claiming Successor, but the person filing must follow important rules to avoid personal liability and other problems. The recent changes raise the bar for the “Affiant,” making it a bit more difficult to get it right but safer in the end.

An Affidavit may be filed only if the estate meets the small estate limits described above and if no petition for probate has been filed. If someone files a probate, or if the Affiant later discovers more assets that take the estate over the limits, the Affiant must turn over any estate property to the Personal Representative appointed by the probate court.

The small estate process is designed to make it easier to do without going to court, but the new law revised the list of what must be included in the Affidavit. That means printed forms you can find on-line or in bookstores may not be current.

The new Affidavit must contain a notice telling persons who owe money to the Decedent or hold the Decedent’s property to pay the debt or turn over the property to the Affiant and that the Affiant, after making a 30-day demand, may go to court to compel payment or delivery and recover attorney fees.

The Affidavit must list all known and undisputed claims and debts against the estate, and provide a mailing address, email addresses or fax number for presentation of claims.

The law includes new rules guiding the sale of estate property during the administration of the estate.

The Affidavit must also list anticipated expenses and attorney fees.

The new law makes the Affiant a “fiduciary,” which imposes a duty to distribute the estate expeditiously. The Affiant is chargeable for estate assets in the Affiant’s possession, and for neglect, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement, commingling of assets, unauthorized self-dealing, and other willful or negligent acts.

As you may surmise, although the process might be a simpler alternative to probate, if there are family conflicts or creditor’s claims to deal with, the small estate process may not be appropriate and may not even be simpler in the end. In light of potential liability, we advise you counsel with your attorney for the best way to proceed in light of this increasingly complex “small estate” process.

Thanks for outline/ideas on this article from Salem attorney, Melinda Roy Weaver.

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