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  • Estates Program Continues to Grow
    Estates workers and sheriff
    ​​In Oregon, the Department of State Lands administers estates where there is no will and no known heirs. Agency staff search for heirs and when none are identified, perform the duties of a personal representative to settle the estates in accordance with probate laws.  The Department holds estates in trust for 10 years within the Common School Fund, and if no heirs are identified within that claim period, the proceeds from the estate permanently escheat to the fund. 

    Anyone with knowledge of the death of an individual without a will and known heirs is required by law to notify DSL with 48 hours of awareness. In recent years, Estates Program staff have stepped up efforts to contact landlords, funeral homes, medical examiners and others to educate them about the agency's responsibilities, resulting in a significant increase in both the number of estates being managed by DSL and revenue from escheats.

    In fiscal year 2012, staff opened just over 150 new cases – an average of 2.5 cases per week. During the year, $275,920 was escheated to the Common School Fund from estates, and an additional $172,412 was received from probates in which heirs or those named in wills could not be found or refused to accept payment. A total of $890,172 was forwarded to heirs.

    "Our estates team is working on more outreach and education, and on streamlining processes," said Cynthia Wickham, DSL's assistant director for finance and administration. "We're very focused on upgrading our administrative resources and expanding professional contacts to ensure we’re managing Oregon’s program well.
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