Oregon Laws Regarding Executors of Estates

By Bernadette A. Safrath

An executor is someone named in a will to manage the appointer's estate after death. Under Oregon law, an executor is officially known as a personal representative. State law spells out rights and responsibilities of a personal representative, including the duty to gather and distribute the estate's assets to the heirs, as well as the compensation owed a personal representative for his work.

Accounting

A personal representative in Oregon is required to provide the probate court with an account of the estate's assets throughout the probate process. When collection, appraisal and disbursement of the estate's assets are a lengthy process, the representative must submit an annual accounting, including the value of the total estate, the value of each individual asset, the value of any property received or disbursed within the accounting period, as well as the dates of those occurrences and, if necessary, a statement that the estate is ready for final settlement. At any time, any heir to the estate is permitted to inspect the accounting records.

Liability

Serving as a personal representative/executor does come with certain liabilities. He is responsible for all the assets in the estate. He has a duty to promptly take possession of the assets, and he must protect them at all times. He is also responsible for paying the estate's debts in a timely manner, including funeral expenses, taxes and outstanding bills. The representative is personally liable for any losses the estate suffers due to his neglect or reckless action. This includes making risky investments with estate assets, undervaluing property for his own benefit and embezzling assets for personal gain. When such conduct is discovered, the court will require the personal representative to compensate the estate's heirs for all losses.

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Compensation

Oregon law sets forth the monetary compensation a personal representative is entitled to -- paid from the estate's funds -- based on the size of the estate. A personal representative may receive 7 percent of any estate valued below $1,000, 4 percent of an estate worth $1,000 to $10,000, 3 percent of an estate of $10,000 to $50,000 and 2 percent of any estate valued at more than $50,000. Additionally, an executor is entitled to 1 percent of any property owned outside of Oregon. The probate court may increase compensation if the representative performs any "extraordinary and unusual services" not generally required of representatives. If there is more than one personal representative working together, the percentage of compensation does not increase, but instead will be divided equally between them.

Discharge

Once a personal representative has completed disbursing the estate's assets, the court will issue a judgment of discharge. This discharge is the final step in closing the deceased's estate, and it releases the personal representative from any further responsibilities. It also terminates the right of any heir or other interested party from filing a claim against the personal representative. However, if the executor used misrepresentation or fraud to induce the court into issuing the judgment, the court can reopen the estate to permit a claim against the executor within one year after the discharge.

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California Executor Checklist

The executor is the person who manages the estate of the deceased, also known as the decedent, during the probate process. The executor is responsible for paying debts of the estate and distributing assets to the heirs. California law allows for the compensation of executors from the estate assets.

Administrator vs. Executor in a Probate

Executors and administrators have much of the same job. Each must guide a decedent's estate through the probate process, making sure his creditors receive notification of his death and payment of his debts, and ensure the estate's remaining assets pass to the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries.The major difference between the two positions is in the way each receives appointment. Both are representatives of the estate and of the court. They’re duty-bound to act in the best interests of the decedent and to follow the letter of the law.

Who Gets Paid First Out of a Deceased's Estate?

Probate is the process of settling a decedent's estate under court supervision. State law may establish an informal probate process for small estates. The executor named in a person's will -- who may be called a personal representative in some states, or an administrator if court-appointed -- must gather and preserve the estate assets and then pay the decedent's debts and taxes before distributing any remaining assets of the estate to the beneficiaries, once the creditors are paid.

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