Most people have a general concept of a will. This formal document names the beneficiaries of your assets and appoints a personal representative to distribute those assets and otherwise wrap up your affairs under the close supervision of the probate court. If you die without a will in place, your property will pass via the pre-determined “intestate succession” rules under Oregon law. If you want to control the disposition of your own assets, rather than the de facto plan, you will need to have at least a will in place. 

If you have minor children, a will is an excellent vehicle to ensure your wishes are known with respect to the care of your children. In the will, you nominate individuals you want to serve as guardians for your children. If desired, you can also note individuals who you feel should not serve as the guardians of your children. By outlining these preferences ahead of time, you are ensuring your voice is heard. 

The will also contains provisions providing that any minor children receive their inheritance in trust with a named trustee. This eliminates the need for a conservatorship to handle the assets you leave for minor children. Without such language, another court process is required to manage minor children’s assets. As you can imagine, it is not desirable to have two separate court proceedings, particularly given the cost. 

Julia and Daniel Rice provide guidance as to strategies to minimize the need for court involvement and to ensure the smooth transition of clients’ estates.

Glossary of Terms


“Decedent” means a person who has died. ORS 111.005(8).


“Will” includes codicil and also includes a testamentary instrument that merely appoints a personal representative or that merely revokes or revives another will. ORS 111.005(31).

Intestate Succession

“Intestate succession” means succession to property of a decedent who dies intestate or partially intestate. ORS 111.005(21).


“Intestate” means one who dies without leaving a valid will, or the circumstance of dying without leaving a valid will, effectively disposing of all the estate. ORS 111.005(20).


“Devisee” means a person designated in a will to receive a devise. ORS 111.005(12).


“Heir” means any person who is or would be entitled under intestate succession to property of a person upon that person’s death. ORS 111.005(18).


(a) “Estate” means the real and personal property of a decedent, as from time to time  changed in form by sale, reinvestment, substitutions or otherwise, augmented by any accretions or additions or diminished by any decreases or distributions.

(b) “Estate” includes tangible and intangible personal property of a decedent domiciled in Oregon, wherever the property is situated. ORS 111.005(15).

Personal Representative

“Personal representative” includes executor, administrator, administrator with will annexed and administrator de bonis non, but does not include special administrator. ORS 111.005(26). In other words, the personal representative is the person who is appointed in the will or by the court to administer the decedent’s estate.

Interested Person

“Interested person” includes heirs, devisees, children, spouses, creditors and any others having a property right or claim against the estate of a decedent that may be affected by the proceeding. “Interested person” also includes fiduciaries representing interested persons. ORS 111.005(19).