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Do I need to obtain a letter of testamentary?

Clackamas, OR |

My father passed away owning zero property. He had an older vehicle and $1500 on a direct express card from his disability benefits. It seems like a lot of hoops and expenses to jump through for so little. Direct Express is requiring a letter of testamentary or small estate affidavit. What makes the most sense?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. A Small Estate Affidavit should work for you. Give me a call.

    Be sure to designate "best answer." If you live in Oregon, you may call me for more detailed advice, 503-650-9662. Please be aware that each answer on this website is based upon the facts, or lack thereof, provided in the question. To be sure you get complete and comprehensive answers, based upon the totality of your situation, contact a local attorney who specializes in the area of law that involves your legal problem. Diane L. Gruber has been practicing law in Oregon for 27 years, specializing in family law, bankruptcy, estate planning and probate. Note: Diane L. Gruber does not represent you until a written fee agreement has been signed by you and Diane L. Gruber, and the fee listed in the agreement has been paid.


  2. Your situation is what the Small Estate Affidavit process was expressly designed for - it is much cheaper and faster than a full probate and probably the recommended route for you to go. Probate does, however, offer some protections from your father's creditors coming after payment in the future and it does make sure that whatever assets there are, are distributed according to either your Dad's wishes (if he left a Will) or according to Oregon intestacy laws if he did not. If either of those issues are of concern, you should discuss it carefully with a local probate attorney. A full probate, however, is likely to cost as much or more than the total assets mentioned - another reason to go with the Small Estate Affidavit if you can. Several of us attorneys in the Portland Metro Area routinely handle these matters and would be happy to talk with you in detail about your situation and needs. Give one of us a call. Good luck.

    Nothing contained herein should be considered as legal advice for any specific situation and nothing herein is intended to create a lawyer-client relationship. Every case is very "fact-specific" and persons wishing legal advice on a specific matter should contact me or another attorney for an appointment to review their particular circumstances and to create a lawyer-client relationship. Gregory L. Abbott, Attorney at Law, 6635 North Baltimore, Suite 254, Portland, Oregon 97203. Tel: 503-283-4568; Fax: 503-283-4586; Email: gregabbott@comcast.net. Specializing in Consumer and Small Business Law.


  3. If a small estate is what you need and are eligible to file one, the big things are: 1. Getting the affidavit prepared properly. 2. Getting the affidavit filed properly. 3. Sending copies of the affidavit to the necessary and required persons. 4. Obtaining receipts to prove that you did #3. Generally the leg work is not that difficult. However, you must keep in mind what is required and what you are trying to accomplish. As is the case with most things, having done it before is a big help in moving things along in an efficient and timely manner. I urge you to consult an attorney experienced in Oregon probate law before you decide whether to do this on your own or pay someone to do it for you. Finally, I would check with DMV regarding the car. They have some options, if you are eligible, that would permit you to retitle the car without resort to a small estate or a formal probate.

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