(KPTV) - Many people put off writing a will. Some don’t want to think about what it means, while others believe their assets are simply too small to worry about. But if you ask someone with the State of Oregon, you can’t afford to not have one.

Sally Wells often spends more time in other people’s homes than her own, as an Estate Representative for the Oregon Department of State Lands.

“I just love that every day it’s different,” said Wells. “Each day is as unique as the person who lived that life, and like I said, you just don’t know, it’s never the same.”

Recently, she visited a Portland house in the Garden Home neighborhood. The man living there passed away with no known heirs and no will, so Wells took over.

“So, we basically then step in just like a family member would. We’re going to liquidate the assets that are available, we’re going to pay the creditors,” said Wells.

Wells will continue to look for any family along the way.

“Facebook is kind of a popular one,” said Wells. “We reach out and try and find family that way.”

If they find someone, they gladly turn over the estate.

In this case, it’s a paid off house that Wells said could be worth around $400,000.

“Our agency never stands in the way of family or heir,” said Wells.

If they can’t find anyone, the house goes on the market as a public listing. They also look for any valuables in the house, then clear out or donate the rest of what’s inside.

“So most often vehicles or jewelry, firearms, things like that,” said Wells.

FOX 12 also visited a Portland home near Burnside and 26th Avenue with Wells that’s still waiting to be cleared.

Like the other home, it too has a paid off mortgage. Wells estimates it’s worth at least half a million.

“Yeah, I’ve seen a lot of stuff,” said Estate Representative, Greg Goller. “Crazy stuff.”

Goller is Wells’ partner. He showed FOX 12 some of the valuables they take from unclaimed estates, like a classic car.

But he said the two of them getting involved can be avoided with one important document.

“We would prefer that everyone fills out a will,” said Goller.

“My other point would be, don’t hide it,” Goller continued. “People seem to think they need to hide it, so they put it in a safe, and we can’t get in the safe.”

According to the state, more people in Oregon are dying without a will or known heir.

In 2009, the stated opened about 130 estate cases. Now, it has almost 1,000.

“I’m very surprised,” said Goller.

Even after homes and assets are sold, family can still claim the money from it.

It’s placed in a 10-year hold as the state continues to search for family. If it’s not claimed after a decade, it’s transferred permanently to the Common School Fund.

For perspective, since 2014, the state has paid over $2 million to rightful heirs, placed more than $4 million into the 10-year hold and transferred over $2 million to the Common School Fund.

“My advice is always to go out and make your will so I’m not showing up in your paperwork,” said Wells.

Wells said most people can benefit from a will.

For more information on a will, click here. https://www.osbar.org/public/legalinfo/1116_YourWill.htm

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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