It is important to realize that changes may occur in this area of law. This information is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem, and it is not intended to replace the work of an attorney.
The person who died may have written or verbal instructions intended
to help the surviving relatives carry out his or her wishes. These
provisions might also be found in the deceased person’s will.
The instructions may include his or her last wishes concerning funeral
and burial, or donation of bodily organs or the body for medical research.
If the deceased person did not leave funeral and burial instructions, Oregon law establishes who has priority in deciding the disposition of the last remains. The following relatives have priority in making those decisions:
The surviving relative should contact the funeral director indicated
in the last instructions or a funeral director of the surviving relative’s
The funeral director will generally help in preparing an obituary for publication in the local newspaper and the notice of the funeral or memorial service if there is to be one.
Under Oregon law, all funeral directors and funeral homes must be licensed.
There are three distinct categories that the funeral director will be responsible for and render a charge for. They are:
You should ask your funeral director which services are mandatory by
law and which are optional and how much the services will cost.
There also may be additional charges for a cemetery plot and memorial. The funeral director will help you in making those arrangements and will be able to tell you how much they will cost.
If the last instructions of the deceased include donation of bodily organs or donation of the body for medical research, you should call the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland as soon after death as possible for arrangements to be made to carry out those last instructions. Arrangements for a donation of bodily organs or donation of the body for medical research should be made immediately.
If there is a surviving spouse or another survivor who owned property jointly with the deceased with rights of survivorship, that person will usually have possession of the assets of the deceased depending on the final determination of ownership.
If the deceased was living alone at the time of his or her death, the surviving relatives should attempt to make a list (inventory) of his or her properties.
Also, an effort should be made to locate a will if one exists.
If a will is found, it will name a personal representative, that is, the person who has the responsibility to see that the property passes under the will to the beneficiaries named in the will.
Either the personal representative named in the will, or the surviving relatives if no will is found, should contact an attorney for advice. When contacting the attorney, it would be helpful to provide him or her with the will (assuming one exists), death certificate, names and addresses of relatives, Social Security number, description of the deceased’s property and a list of the known creditors. The personal representative or surviving relatives should also seek advice from the attorney about filing estate or inheritance tax returns.
Updated: February 2009