Oregon Last Will and Testament: Free, downloadable forms?

Are there free, online, downloadable, official forms you can use to write a legally enforceable Oregon will?

Sorry, but the answer is no, at least not if you want your will to do what you intend and be legally enforceable. Oregon wills, and other estate planning documents, are not Wash & Wear, Click & Go, One-Size-Fits-All, or Eat and Run.

Will-drafting cannot be done on the fly, on Twitter (though I’m sure it has been tried – and may one day soon be tried in court), or with anything other than serious thought, study, and drafting skill. This is not to say one can’t draft a will oneself, or write one quickly in an emergency.

However … read on:

  • I need a form so I can write my will. Can I use one online?
  • Does my will need to be notarized?
  • Do I need witnesses when I sign my will?
  • Does my son-in-law get my money if my daughter dies before he does?
  • What happens to my estate if my partner and I die at the same time – or an hour apart?
  • How do I reduce the tax bite on my estate?
  • What happens to our child if my new partner or I die before the official adoption is complete?
  • Is there a right, or a wrong, way to leave money to a charity? Taxes!
  • I just found out my “husband” never legally divorced his first “wife.” What happens to his estate, my estate, our children?
  • My partner put our will in a safety deposit box, but I don’t have the key.

These are questions people ask, in Oregon law libraries, on the web, and probably around dinner tables (at least around some dinner tables!).

Oregon does not have any stand-alone court-sanctioned estate planning forms packets in print or that can be downloaded, free or otherwise. Oregon legal forms are available from other sources, but you need to make sure they comply with current Oregon laws. (More about Oregon legal forms.)

Public law librarians are all in favor of self-education and research, especially about legal matters. We encourage you to read about the subject so you will know about the process, have good questions for your lawyer, and can take an active role in planning your future and your legacy.

The legal forms and will-writing books you find online and in the library are very useful for showing you what information and documentation you need to gather and think about. You can even use them for making your will. But please, especially if you have children, own property, and want to know the tax implications of your estate planning endeavors, please speak to an attorney.

Here are some self-help resources, so make a strong cup of coffee and read on!

1) Lawyers (and How to Find One): No matter what law book you read, how many statutes you study, I highly recommend you consult an attorney to review your documents and to advise you on matters specific to your exact situation. You really (really!) want to get this right. You won’t be around to correct it and you don’t want the people you love to have to spend thousands of dollars and millions of tears trying to fix what wasn’t done correctly in the first place. (More about free and low-cost legal services.)

2) You county court’s Probate Division. For example:
a) Washington County Circuit Court Probate Department
b) Clackamas County Circuit Court (not every court has a separate webpage – call them directly)
c) Links to other county’s Circuit Court websites (see left-hand sidebar for drop-down menu)

3) The Oregon State Bar (OSB) webpage has information on wills, trusts, estate law, and much more.

4) You may find useful information at the State of Oregon website on Probate Administration.

5) One source of commercially produced Oregon legal forms is Stevens-Ness Law Publishing Co., in Portland. They maintain a web site for purchasing legal forms for Oregon. (If you are filing a form with the circuit court in your county, you must check with the Clerk of the Court about any local rules and procedures that might affect you.) You can go to the Stevens-Ness web site at: http://www.stevensness.com/.

6) Nolo Press also has print and online forms: http://www.nolo.com/. They are not Oregon-specific so please read the disclaimers.

7) There are a couple of books on Oregon estate law that may be helpful, but they do not have forms. Here are two titles your local public library may own:

a) “Wills & Estate Planning: Oregon Handbook,” revised edition (2003), by Rees C. Johnson

b) “A Will is not Enough, in Oregon,” 2nd edition, 2007, by Amelia E. Pohl & Richard B. Schneider.

8) If you do plan to write your own will, you will have to read (study!) the Oregon Revised Statutes. New laws are enacted every Legislative Session so make sure you keep up with the new laws that have gone into effect by the time you sign off on that final version of your will. It sometimes also helps to put yourself in the shoes of your heirs (and personal representative):

Imagine if YOU were the one left behind: can you figure out where your important papers are, where your will is, what it says, whether or not it was properly executed?

9) Please note that all of the above sources are offered only as suggestions. If you have any lingering questions about how to proceed, and you should have some, please contact a lawyer who could advise you on legal and tax implications for your particular situation. The Oregon State Bar (OSB) maintains a toll-free help line that you can call to request the name of local attorneys who specialize in estate planning. That number is 503-684-3763 or toll-free 800-451-7636.

10) Please feel free to call or visit an Oregon County Law Library if you have further question.

And please consult an attorney!