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Families, Property, Liberty, and the Law: Mediating Probate Cases

From The Appropriate Dispute Resolution Center

The number of probate disputes continues to grow in the United States as we face an increasingly aged population. Mediation of such disputes can provide creative solutions and preserve family relationships. The Probate Mediation Clinic at Oregon Law provides students with an opportunity to apply what they have learned about mediation in the classroom to a cutting-edge area of mediation practice. “Although the classroom can provide background knowledge to prepare students for practice, confronting real issues and the complexities of working with real people greatly enriches the learning process,” says Professor Susan Gary.

The Probate Mediation Clinic, launched in January 2011, was developed by a unique inter-disciplinary blend of law school faculty members. Professor Susan Gary specializes in probate law, trusts and estates; Professor Leslie Harris specializes in elder law, child advocacy law, and Medicaid; and Professor Caroline Forell specializes in women and the law, trusts and estates. ADR Center Director Jane Gordon and Carrie Heltzel, Oregon Office for Community Dispute Resolution administrator, offer decades of experience mediating and negotiating multiparty disputes of all kinds, and Lane County Probate Judge Lauren Holland contributes her expert experience from the perspective of the courts.

“Dispute resolution offers people opportunities that were previously unavailable,” says Judge Holland. “In addition to which, given our budget crisis, it seemed incumbent to me to utilize our resources in the best way possible. One of those resources is the University of Oregon law school.”

Prior to the start of the clinic, law students received specialized training on relevant topics, including diminished capacity, guardianships and conservatorships, disability, Medicaid, ethics, and trusts and estates. The training was also popular among seasoned attorneys seeking information on this new approach to probate cases.

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