- Appointment of Personal Representatives: Before a person can become the Personal Representative of an estate, the Court must approve them as Personal Representative. The court usually gives preference to the person nominated as Personal Representative in a decedent’s will. If there is no will, the court will usually appoint a close relative to administer the estate.
- Probate and Contest of Wills: The Probate Court only admits a will to probate if it receives certain assurance that the will is valid. Sometimes there are challenges to the validity of a will, or multiple wills that parties claim are the “true will.” In such a situation, the Probate Court decides which will is valid and should be administered. Similarly, when there are claims of undue influence or incapacity of the testator, the Probate Court determines whether undue influence or incapacity existed.
- Determination of Heirship: When there is no will to probate, the Court settles all disputes as to who are the heirs of a decedent, according to the Oregon laws of intestacy.
- Administration, Settlement and Distribution: The Probate Court oversees all aspects of administration of an estate. In fact, very few distributions can/should be made without the approval of the Probate Court. As with other probate disputes, the Probate Court is the final decision maker when problems arise.
- Construction of Wills: If there is confusion as to what a will actually says, the Probate Court will listen to the arguments of the parties and determine the correct way to interpret the will.
- Settlement of Creditor Disputes: The Probate Court determines what rights creditors, or claimed creditors, of the decedent have in the estate. If a creditor makes a claim that the Personal Representative does not think is valid, the Probate Court makes the final determination as to the claim’s validity.
- Other Duties: The Probate Court also supervises Guardianships and Conservatorships, can appoint successor trustees to trusts, and supervises all court appointed Personal Representatives, Guardians and Conservators.
So while an actual appearance in court may not be part of every probate, the Probate Court plays an important role in the entire process. From the initial filing through the final discharge of the Personal Representative, the Probate Court has the final say on how an estate is administered.