If you die without a will in Oregon, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state "intestate succession" laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Oregon.
Only assets that pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate, and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.
Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here's a quick overview:
If you die with:
here's what happens:
|children but no spouse||children inherit everything|
|spouse but no descendants||spouse inherits everything|
|spouse and descendants from you and that spouse||spouse inherits everything|
|spouse and at least one descendant from you and someone other than that spouse||spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property
descendants inherit everything else
|parents but no spouse or descendants||parents inherit everything|
|siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents||siblings inherit everything|
In Oregon, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you don't, or if all of your descendants are also descendants of your spouse, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property.
If, however, you die with at least one descendant who is not the descendant of your surviving spouse, then your spouse inherits only 1/2 of your intestate property.
Example: Barrett is married to Jed and also has a 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Barrett owns a house in joint tenancy with Jed, plus $200,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if Barrett had made one. When Barrett dies, Jed inherits the house outright -- it's not intestate property -- plus $100,000 worth of Barrett's property. Barrett's daughter inherits the remaining $100,000 share of Barrett's property.
If you die without a will in Oregon, your children will receive an "intestate share" of your property. The size of each child's share depends on how many children you have, whether or not you are married, whether your spouse is also their parent, and whether you have any children from a previous relationship. (See the table above.)
For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Oregon must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it's not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.
This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney. If you want to read the law itself, you'll find a link to Oregon's intestate succession statutes at the end of this article.
If you die without a will and don't have any family, your property will "escheat" into the state's coffers. However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won't go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, or cousins.
Here are a few other things to know about Oregon intestacy laws.
To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled If There's No Will.
You can find Oregon's laws on wills and intestate succession here: Oregon Revised Statutes § § 112.015 to 112.830.
For more about estate planning, go to the Wills, Trusts & Probate section of Nolo.com.