Most people hope to provide for their loved ones when they pass on. One way to ensure the people you love receive your assets when you die is to create a will. A will should be part of a comprehensive estate plan, possibly including an advanced health care directive or living will and a power of attorney for your financial affairs to be taken care of if you become incapacitated.
Intestate Succession: What Happens Without a Will
If you’re considering whether or not to write a will, you should understand what happens if you pass away before creating a will. Your assets will be distributed (after debts are paid) according to the intestacy laws where you reside when you pass on. Typically, only close relatives inherit from you in this case. This means an irresponsible child who’s left your life completely could inherit your possessions while your best friend who’s been of great assistance to you throughout your life would inherit nothing.
The chart below outlines some of the primary will laws in Oregon.
||Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 112 – Intestate Succession and Wills
|Requirements to Create Will
||The creator of the will, known as the “testator,” must be at least 18 years or been lawfully married and is “of sound mind.”
|Number of Witnesses
||At least two witnesses must see the testator sign the will or have a person sign it for him or her (when unable to sign) or hear the testator acknowledge his or her signature already on the will. The witnesses must attest to this by signing their names to the will.
A will isn’t invalidated just because the witness is “interested” because he or she is also a beneficiary of the will.
|Revocation of Will
||A person can revoke his or her will by:
- Creating a new will
- Burning, tearing, or otherwise destroying the will with the intent to revoke it (whether to the testator or another person at his or her direction and in his or her presence with at least two witnesses)
- Marrying, if survived by a spouse, unless a prenuptial agreement or other circumstances prove it wasn’t intended to be revoked
- Divorce, but only revoked as to any provisions about the former spouse, including as executor or beneficiary
|Validity of Out-of-State Wills
||Wills that are lawfully created in Oregon either at the time of execution or death, in the state the testator lived at the time of execution or death, or the place of execution when it was created and signed.
Wills are also valid if they comply with the Uniform International Wills Act, which Oregon has adopted.
||Oral or “nuncupative” wills aren’t valid under Oregon law.
||Handwritten or “holographic” wills aren’t recognized in Oregon.
For lower income individuals with fewer assets, you could create your own will using forms you find through your research or ask the local legal aid office, Veterans Affairs office, or community wills clinic for help. Even if your current income is low, if you have a lot of assets in your estate, you should consider consulting with an experienced Oregon wills lawyer to create the best estate plan for you.
Note: State laws change frequently. Therefore, you should contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to confirm the currentness of these laws, especially if you plan to create a will.
Research the Law