What Happens If You Die Without a Will? | Portland, Oregon

What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Oregon?


One of the questions that our Portland estate planning lawyers do not ever want to answer for our clients is, “What happens if you die without a will?” If your loved one dies without a will and fails to make an estate plan that states their final wishes, then the state of Oregon dictates who receives their estate.

Even if you think you are not leaving many valuable possessions behind, an estate plan can help your family or inheritors avoid costly disputes after your death and ensure that your wishes are followed. At Michael D. O’Brien & Associates, P.C., we are dedicated to helping you plan for your family’s future. Contact our law office now and schedule a free case evaluation with our Oregon estate planning attorneys.

Why Do You Need an Estate Planning Lawyer in Oregon?

If you or a family member pass away without a valid estate plan, the state of Oregon will distribute your estate to your heirs based on intestate succession laws – a plan that is usually much different than what you would have wanted. Oregon laws are quite specific about how assets are distributed when there is no will.

Creating a will should be considered a priority so you can have a say in what happens to your assets when you die. At Michael D. O’Brien & Associates, P.C., our Portland estate planning lawyers are committed to:

  • Helping you create wills, set up trusts, establish powers of attorney, create advance healthcare directives, avoid the probate process, and administer your estate.
  • Creating a comprehensive estate plan in place to help you organize your property, designate beneficiaries, and leave instructions for measures to take if you become incapable of making your own decisions.
  • Helping you control what will happen to your hard-earned estate by drafting appropriate estate planning documents.
  • Working with each client to develop a personalized estate plan that addresses their needs and protects their legacy.
  • Ensuring that your estate takes care of your family the way you want it to and that your estate pays the smallest amount allowable in legal fees, court costs, and inheritance tax.

Our bankruptcy and estate planning law firm proudly serves clients and their families in Portland, Bend, Clackamas, and its surrounding areas. Contact us today and schedule a free case evaluation to learn more about the importance of creating wills.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Oregon?

When you die without a legal will, it is called dying intestate. This means that your entire estate goes through the probate process, which may take several months or years to complete. The probate court will appoint someone, usually a surviving spouse or adult child, to oversee the distribution of your assets and ensure that final bills and taxes are paid. This can be a stressful process for your loved ones, particularly if they disagree over who should be in charge.

Because wills contain specific instructions on what happens to your assets, the process of distributing your property will likely be much simpler for your family members and other beneficiaries. Our Portland OR estate planning lawyer can help you learn more about the consequences of dying without a will.

If you don’t have a will when you pass away, the court will distribute your property according to the rules of intestate succession in Oregon. Your assets will go to your closest relatives, as defined by Oregon law regardless of what your relationship with them was like or what you would have wanted. Individuals inherit under what is referred to as intestate succession and no matter how much evidence is provided to indicate the intentions of the deceased, without a will, the law must be followed.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will and You Are Married?

Most people assume that if you are married and have died intestate, all your assets will be passed to your surviving spouse. However, that’s not always the case. Our Portland OR estate planning lawyer can explain the distribution of the assets when a married person dies without a will.

If you die married, the distribution of your other property will depend on how your assets are titled, whether the property is real property or personal property, your state’s intestacy laws, and whether you have surviving spouse and children.

In Oregon, the following intestate laws apply if you are married and died without a will:

  • If you are married and have no surviving child, your spouse inherits everything. 
  • If you are married and have children with your spouse, your entire estate will go to your surviving spouse. 
  • If you have surviving children from another partner, your surviving spouse could receive up to one-half of the estate, and the remaining shares will be passed on to them.

What Happens if You Die Without a Will and You Are in a Domestic Partnership?

Some states apply inheritance laws on marriage to domestic partnerships, while other states that recognize domestic partnerships may not recognize inheritance rights.

Unfortunately, Oregon is one of those states that do not legally recognize domestic partnerships between a male and a female couple. Oregon laws only allow domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. And this is exactly why it’s important to seek legal advice from our Portland estate planning lawyers for other estate planning options that could cater to your needs. 

What Happens if You Die Without a Will and You Are Single?

Several scenarios can occur if you’re single and die without a will. Our Portland estate planning attorney can explain the intestate succession law applicable to single persons. In most states, intestacy laws award the estate in the following manner:

  • If you are single and have children, then your entire estate is divided among your children in equal shares. If any child has died before you, and that child has children, then the deceased child’s share will go to your grandchildren.
  • If you are single and have no descendants, your parents will inherit your property in equal shares. If one of your parents dies before you, your surviving parent will receive all your property.
  • If both parents are deceased, then your siblings will inherit your property.
  • If there are no close relatives, then cousins on your mother’s side would inherit one-half of the estate, and cousins on your father’s side would inherit the other half.
  • If you are single, have no surviving descendants, and no surviving parents, surviving siblings, or nieces or nephews, then your property will be split into two halves. One-half of your property will pass to and through your maternal grandparents, and the other half will pass to and through your paternal grandparents. If one side of the family has died out, the side of the family that has surviving members will inherit everything.
  • If you died with no surviving relatives, your unclaimed properties would be forfeited. This indicates that it will be classified as unclaimed property by the state of Oregon.

Which Assets Pass Via Intestate Succession?

Only estate assets that would have passed through probate are affected by Oregon intestate succession laws. Generally, that includes assets that you own solely under your name. Valuable assets that do not go through the probate process and are therefore unaffected by intestate succession laws include the following:

  • Properties you own with someone else in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety
  • Properties you have transferred to a living trust
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Life insurance proceeds with a named beneficiary
  • Securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • Vehicles for which you have a transfer on death registration
  • Real estate for which you have a transfer on the death deed

These types of assets will be passed on to the surviving named beneficiary or co-owner, whether or not you have a last will and testament. However, if you don’t have a will, and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the estate assets, then the properties could end up being distributed according to intestate succession. Our Portland estate planning lawyers can help you navigate Oregon intestacy laws.

Call Our Experienced Portland Estate Planning Lawyer Now!

If you die without a will, it means that you won’t be the one to decide who gets what. The distribution of your estate will go according to laws of intestate succession. Your property and possessions may go to places and people you did not intend to inherit your estate. If you want the freedom to decide how and to whom your property will be distributed when you die, you need a will.

Intestate succession in Oregon can be a confusing process. If you are concerned about what to do when a parent or loved one dies without a will or you would like to avoid the complexities of the intestate succession process, our Portland OR estate planning lawyers at Michael D. O’Brien & Associates, P.C. can help. 

Our estate planning law firm has a successful track record of securing favorable outcomes for our clients. For long-term peace of mind, contact us to set up a free case evaluation today. We look forward to helping with your will and other estate planning needs.

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Please be aware that submission of this no-obligation form does not establish an attorney-client relationship. By filling out the form, you agree to receiving emails from our firm regarding your case evaluation and other helpful resources. 

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