My sympathies for your family's loss.
Probate is required when there is a will and a person has passed; the executor is expected to apply for Letters Testamentary so they can act as the legal representative of the estate (http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/113.035)
General information here:
An heir has a right to be kept reasonably informed of the status of the probate proceeding and to a copy of the will. The will is on file with the court once probate is initiated so it is public record and anyone can get a copy. The heirs have a right to an accounting. The whole purpose of probate is to protect the heirs.
The executor has a fiduciary duty to the estate and the heirs.
A fiduciary duty means that the person in the fiduciary capacity owes a duty to the other person- and that the fiduciary must act in good faith, with the best intentions, to preserve any property that is at issue. Failure to act in this manner (essentially, a trust/guardian) is considered a "breach" and can result in:
1. removal of the fiduciary
2. sanctions (ie fines, award of attorney fees, etc)
3. damages (economic liability for the damages suffered by the party to whom the duty was owed)
It can also result in removal of the fiduciary.
A normal probate will take a total of 4-6 months so if the process has not been initiated an interested party can file to be appointed executor and obtain a court order for production of the will. If a person is in possession of the will and fails to act, that will often result in them not being appointed as executor because of fiduciary concerns.
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Information provided is for educational purposes only. Consultation with a personal attorney is always recommended so your particular facts may be considered. Thank you and take care.