Probate Administration Lawyers in Melrose Assisting Families Through the Probate Process
Under the State of Massachusetts’ laws, the estate of a person who has passed away must undergo the probate process. The entire probate process can be extremely lengthy as well as costly. There can be no debate that losing a loved one is an overwhelming event when emotions are running high, and going through a complicated legal process is likely unwelcome in a difficult time of grieving.
One of the last things that you want to think about is having to deal with the various legal issues that accompany the probate process after your loved one passes away. Nonetheless, if you have been appointed to act as the executor or personal representative of your loved one’s estate, it is highly recommended that you hire a probate administration attorney who can help you navigate the often-complicated issues that accompany probate.
If I Have a Will When I Die Does My Estate Still Have to Go Through Probate in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, the law specifies that a will must be filed in the county where the decedent resided. The court must establish the legitimacy of the will in addition to ensuring that all of the terms and conditions set forth are upheld. It should be understood that under most circumstances, the probate process is a requirement in Massachusetts. However, the state does allow for several different probate options to make the process easier. Informal probate is the simplest method and generally the fastest procedure in dealing with estates. In order to be able to take advantage of this method, there must be a will. Additionally, supervised administration of the estate must not be necessary. Informal probate is the simplest method as an order can be issued in a relatively short amount of time.
What Type of Property Does Not Have to Go Through Probate?
The determination as to whether or not an estate needs to be probated can largely depend on exactly how the decedent’s property was titled when they passed away. In some cases, the property may not have to go through the probate process due to the fact that, by law, it rightfully passes to another individual.
Some common examples include:
- Property that is held in a trust that was created by the decedent
- Any proceeds that stem from a life insurance policy or retirement account that names a beneficiary.
- Any property that is jointly held that designates a right of survivorship. A right of survivorship basically states that the surviving joint owner is automatically entitled to the property.
In contrast, there are several legal reasons why an estate would need to be probated, which include the following examples:
- There is a legal need to determine if the will is valid
- There is property involved that does not list a beneficiary or a joint owner, such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, or any other personal property that is solely in the decedent’s name without any right of survivorship.
- The decedent’s estate needs to pay creditors.
- To file the decedent’s tax returns and pay taxes.
- To obtain medical records.
What are the Steps Involved in the Probate Process?
There are several steps that must be followed in the probate process. They are as follows:
This step begins when the estate files a will along with a legal petition to the probate court in the county where the deceased resided. The petition requests that they will be accepted as authentic. It could take several weeks for a court to either approve or deny the will.
If the court approves the will, then the executor is legally authorized to begin probating the estate. Subsequently, notices will be sent to all of the heirs and beneficiaries named in the will. If there is no will, notices must also be sent to any heirs who are eligible to inherit from the deceased.
Notify Creditors and Pay Debts
Any creditors that the decedent may have owed must be notified that they have passed away, which officially begins the probate process. Massachusetts laws stipulate that creditors have up to 12 months to make any claims against the estate in order to obtain payment for a debt. The executor reviews all claims for payment and makes certain to pay the ones that are authentic. If a claim is determined to be illegitimate, creditors have another 12 months in which to file a lawsuit against the estate. The assets of the estate cannot be divided amongst beneficiaries until these lawsuits are concluded.
File Tax Returns
Both Federal and Massachusetts tax returns must be filed if any income is generated by the estate during the probate process. In addition, any other income that was earned by the deceased in their last year of life is also subject to federal and state tax.
Once the IRS receives the completed tax return, it will then issue what is known as a “closing letter.” When this letter is issued, the executor can then finalize the probate. The entire process can take anywhere from four to twelve months in total.
What are the Benefits of Hiring a Probate Administration Lawyer?
Dealing with the various legal aspects that surround the probate process can be extremely confusing and difficult to navigate on your own. One of the best steps that you can take is to hire a skilled probate administration lawyer to handle estate assets. This can give you peace of mind and relieve you of the burden of dealing with the probate process.
Unfortunately, wills may not always be complete or clear as to their intent. Frequently, wills contain instructions that can be disputed by various heirs or beneficiaries. It is not uncommon for family members to disagree with the contents of the will.
Contact the Martino Law Group, LLC of Melrose, MA, by calling (781) 531-8673 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team. We will be happy to discuss all of your rights and legal options.