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Probate In Massachusetts: Understanding The Process

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Probate in Massachusetts can be an exhausting and dragged out process. The loss of a family member alone can be an emotional and stressful experience, but dealing with the estate and belongings left behind can be straight-out overwhelming. As in everything in life, the answers you seek are not always the ones you would hope for. It is crucial that you understand your options and seek professional advice from an attorney and CPA as the process depends on how things were originally done beforehand.


What is probate?

According to the Wynn & Wynn Attorneys, “probate is a court-supervised legal process through which an individual, usually a surviving spouse or close family member, is given authority to gather the decedent’s assets, pay outstanding debts, taxes and expenses, and distribute any remaining assets according to the terms of a will or, if there is no enforceable will.”

Not everyone will need to go through the probate process in Massachusetts which can take up to a year to conclude. If the decedent created a trust for the property prior to passing then it may be able to skip probate. If there is a right of survivorship, the surviving owner will absorb the decedents share of the property.

5 Reasons for Probate in Massachusetts?

  1. To find out if the decedents will is valid.
  2. To change ownership title to the property under the decedents name and with no rights of survivorship.
  3. To pay the decedent’s creditors.
  4. To get the decedent’s medical records.
  5. To file the decedent’s tax returns and pay any past due taxes.

Personal Representative

During the probate process, the court will appoint a personal representative to manage the decedent’s estate. This person will either be the one named in the will if there is one on file or the person with legal priority such as the decedent’s spouse or heirs. It is the responsibility of the personal representative to distribute estate assets to inheritors after all debts and taxes are paid. the personal representative, also known as the executor, will follow the instructions of the will, or if there isn’t one, turns to state “intestate succession” law to determine who inherits.

Informal Probate

Informal Probate is a faster process as long as all the requirements are met. It is handled by a Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code Magistrate and hearings aren’t required or even allowed. An informal order can be issued by the magistrate in as little as 7 days after the decedent’s death. In order to fill an informal probate in Massachusetts there must be an original will, an official death certificate and the location of all heirs must be known.

Formal Probate

Formal probate will go in front of a judge and may involve one or more hearings. There are several reasons why you may need to file a formal probate in Massachusetts such as you have an objection to an informal probate, a copy or handwritten will is only available, the terms of the will are not clear or if a special personal representative needs to be appointed by the court.

Voluntary Administration

Voluntary administration is a process for an estate with little assets and no real estate. A will does not need to be present for a voluntary administration. The decedent must be a Massachusetts resident, passed away at least 30 days ago and left personal property valued less then $25,000.

You can learn more about the types of probate in Massachusetts by visiting the states website.


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