The Probate Department in Clackamas County handles all estate, protective proceeding, and trust cases, as well as requests for name and/or sex change.
An estate case (“probate”) is the method by which the property of a deceased person is transferred to others after locating assets and paying debts. Sometimes, property can be transferred without a full probate estate proceeding through what is called an “Affidavit of Claiming Successor” or “Small Estate Affidavit.” Depending on the circumstances of the decedent (deceased person), you may have the option of filing the Small Estate rather than the full estate. Court staff is not permitted to offer you advice on which option applies to the circumstances of the decedent. A licensed attorney is the best resource for helping you determine the right course of action.
A protective proceeding is similar to an estate case, but is used for a living person who can no longer manage their medical or financial decision-making. If you think a family member or friend is in need of a protective proceeding, the Court strongly encourages you to work with an attorney.
If you are seeking to change your name and/or sex, or the name of a minor, please refer to our Forms section where you will find instructions and forms that may assist you in pursuing your request for a change.
Below you will find answers to some of the Probate Department’s most frequently-asked questions.
Where do I go to get “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration”?
The Court issues “letters” after formally appointing a personal representative in a full estate proceeding. Letters Testamentary are issued in testate cases (where there is a will and it has been admitted to probate). Letters of Administration are issued in intestate cases (where the decedent did not leave a will). A full estate proceeding begins with a successfully filed petition to appoint a personal representative. As addressed below, the Court does not provide forms to begin these types of cases. Most likely, you will need to work with an attorney to file a petition and limited judgment of appointment before you are issued Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. Please note that the filing of a Small Estate Affidavit does not result in issuance of these formal letters.
Intestate cases where the decedent’s last will is submitted for admission to probate, the original hard copy of the will must be submitted within seven (7) days of acceptance of the petition.
Where do I get probate forms?
The Probate Department provides a limited number of forms for particular filings
Forms located there are periodically updated to keep current with statutory requirements. If the form you are looking for is not provided, you may need to consult with an attorney to draft a form of document. Alternatively, the Clackamas County Law Library, various legal forms websites, or a brick-and-mortar forms provider may be able to furnish the desired form. Court staff cannot offer recommendations of any specific provider.
Although a party is allowed to appear in a case pro se (without legal representation), Clackamas County does have a Supplemental Local Rule (SLR) 9.085 that requires the unrepresented party to demonstrate competency. Failure to adequately administer the estate could result in the fiduciary’s removal or replacement.
Clackamas County’s full Supplemental Local Rules (SLRs)
Why do I have to be bonded, and what does an asset restriction involve?
The Court generally requires any fiduciary to be bonded for the full amount of the assets to be administered plus the annual income expected to be received. The bond protects both the beneficiaries (or protected person in conservatorships) and the creditors of the estate from breach of the fiduciary’s duties. Unless statute prescribes the circumstances in which bond may be waived, the court requires consent and adequate assurance of protection for all interested parties prior to waiver. Thus, in an intestate estate, consents from all heirs plus assurance that creditors will not be prejudiced by waiver would be required. The latter is usually submitted in the form of an affidavit regarding the creditors of the estate. See also SLR 9.055.
An alternative to bonding is restriction of assets. If property is to be restricted, the language of restriction must be included in the judgment setting the restriction. See UTCR 9.050. The form of acknowledgment of restriction, which must be filed within 30 days of the entry of the judgment, should be substantially similar to the form provided by the Court, available here:
Court approval by order or judgment must be obtained before any disbursement, release, or sale of any restricted asset or account.
What is Guardian Partners, and why do I have to take a class?
Guardian Partners is a non-profit organization that administers the non-professional fiduciary class required under SLR 9.076. The class requirement (applying to nearly all estate and protective proceeding cases) was approved by the presiding judge after an unfortunate history of appointed fiduciaries intentionally or accidentally breaching their fiduciary obligations. Most attendees find the class helpful and worth the registration fee, which is a cost of administration. The attendee should register directly with Guardian Partners, whose contact information is available at www.guardian-partners.org.
Once the class has been completed, Guardian Partners will file a certificate of completion into the case on behalf of the attendee.
What is this Courtesy Notice?
Courtesy Notices are notices issued by the court to alert a party that they have missed a prescribed deadline for a filing or other action. The deadline for filing may be set by statute or in relation to another action or occurrence in the case. The Courtesy Notice will contain a brief statement of the omitted filing or action and state that if such omission has not been cured within 30 days, a citation hearing will be scheduled. The Courtesy Notice system should not be relied on as a substitute for an adequate case management and calendaring system.
How do I get copies of documents or fiduciary letters from my probate case?
The Court encourages you to subscribe to OJCIN, the publicly accessibly case system that allows you to view the case register and open .PDF versions of case documents. You can register online when you visit our OJCIN OnLine Homepage.
Court-certified copies of documents from the case can be requested through the Clackamas County Records Center’s instructions for records requests. Copy and certification costs apply. Certified copies of fiduciary letters will only be issued to the appointed fiduciary or their attorney of record. Fiduciary letters are issued by the Probate department and questions regarding copies of letters should be directed to the Probate Clerk.
Who is a court visitor and why must one be involved in certain protective proceedings?
The appointment of a court visitor is required in certain protective proceedings. The visitor is an impartial agent of the court and will conduct various interviews and may review medical records. The visitor will file a report to detail the investigation results including, but not limited to, the protected person's health, mental capacity, habitation, possible objection, and potential representation by counsel. The Clackamas County Probate Visitor list and additional information about visitors is available on the forms page.
Listed below are links to educational materials that may be of assistance to you:
- Oregon State Bar
- Telephone: 503.620.0222, Toll-free in Oregon 1.800.452.8260
- Legal Links
- What is Probate?
- Wills, Trusts and Elder Law Resource Page
- Lawyer Referral Service and Modest Means Programs This service can also be reached by calling 503.684.3763 or toll-free in Oregon 1.800.452.7636.
- Oregon Law Help
Free legal information for low-income Oregonians, including information on family law and protection from abuse.