Over the last five years or so, my estates and trust practice has grown to encompass the administration of estates throughout Oregon, including probate cases in Washington, Multnomah, Clackamas, Lane, Marion, Clatsop, and Douglas Counties. Nonetheless, given that my office is in Hillsboro and I work at Hillsboro Law Group PC, the majority of my probate cases are in Washington County. Unfortunately, to be frank, I have consistently found the Washington County probate court to be the most difficult jurisdiction in which to handle probate cases. From what I have heard this appears to be widely shared perception among the Oregon Bar.
Attorneys handling Oregon probate cases often may choose from two or more counties in deciding where to file a probate case. For example, if a decedent resided in Multnomah County, had property in Clackamas County, and died in Washington County, venue would be proper in any of those three counties. Even though my office is in Hillsboro, I would likely elect to file such a case in Multnomah County, at least for the time being.
A major concern regarding Washington County probate practice is the absence of “Supplementary Local Rules” for probate procedures. Multnomah and Clackamas Counties have such rules, but Washington County does not. Nonetheless, Washington County probate courts will frequently (but inconsistently) impose requirements that have no statutory or regulatory basis, meaning that pleadings are often returned, usually with a cryptic explanation at best. In my opinion, it is crucial that adequate Supplemental Local Rules for probate cases in Washington County be adopted and promulgated in the very near future.
My comments above notwithstanding, I do think the situation has improved somewhat over the last six months or so. The huge backlog of accountings seems to have eased somewhat, and judges recently assigned to handling probate cases may be becoming more comfortable in this rather arcane area of law. Nonetheless, attorneys handling probate cases in Washington County should proceed with extra caution.