Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Who gets my stuff if I don't have a will?

If you die without a will, the state of Oregon has written one for you. A will tells who gets your stuff when you are dead. If you die without a will you are said to have died "intestate." When you die intestate Oregon law determines where your stuff goes. Lawyers have a chart. We find out who survived you, check the chart, and that's where your stuff goes.

By the way, if you die without a will the State of Oregon does not get it.

If you have a spouse who survives you and the spouse is the parent of all your children, then your spouse gets everything. If you have a spouse who survives you and at least one child who is not the child of your spouse, then your spouse gets half and the rest goes as set out below.

Any property that doesn't go to a surviving spouse goes to your children. However, if one (or more) of your children died before you did, then the portion that would have gone to the deceased child is split among his or her children. If you never had children, your property goes to your surviving parents. If your parents are gone too, then your brothers and sisters inherit. But if your brothers and sisters are dead as well, their children split your property. If you have no brothers, sisters, nieces or nephews, it starts going to your cousins. By this time it is fairly complicated, but there is a chart and your lawyer can look it up.

If someone does not have a relative who can take their property according to the chart, it goes to the State. If there is a relative who is entitled to something according to the chart, but the relative cannot be found, his or her share goes to the Oregon Department of State Lands. Thus, when a relative who would be entitled to property from someone who died intestate cannot be located, the State of Oregon, which is entitled to his or her share, has all the rights that the missing person would have had. That includes the right to be a personal representative of the estate and even to challenge a will.

You can see now that if you write a will leaving everything to your spouse, but should he or she not survive you, then to your children in equal shares, and your spouse is the parent of your children, your will states exactly what the law would require anyway. The Oregon law governing intestate distribution is designed to reflect what most people would put in a will if they had gotten around to writing one. That does not mean you should put off doing a will--there are other good reasons for not dying intestate. But you do not have to worry that without a will you family will be denied the benefit of your property. The people you want to get it may not get it, but somebody in your family will receive it.


  1. wHAT HAPPENS WHEN A PERSON DIE3S WITH NO WILL, he leaves a spouse, not the mother of his 3 children, He has made the children beniferciary of all his stocks, long before he reemarried, Does being benifishery trump being the spouee, who hgets the stocks?

  2. My spouse died. No will so this will be considered intestate. There are no issues. Then, I as the living spouse inhered automaicly everything?
    My spouse had an bank account in another country (and I have access to)
    I provided the death certificate to that country and the bank account is now locked until I provide them with document from the executor of oregon state.
    1. If this correct?
    2. How do I file for such a confirmation letter?

  3. My father died without a will and owned a mobile home parked on a rented lot. The Landlord said they can lock up the property and we will not be able to get out property until the probate it over. Once that happens, we will owe the back rent. Is this true? We would like to sell the home but the Landlord said they will change the locks and must be on site to “protect” his things. What right do they have to hold his personal items of no value to anyone but hold memories to my brother and myself?