Probate is a legal process that may take place after the death of an individual. It allows beneficiaries to manage the decedent’s estate including accessing assets, paying debts, and transferring any remaining property.
Time Frame for Probate in Massachusetts
In the state of Massachusetts, probate can take up to a year. This is because creditors have one year to bring any claims against the estate of a deceased. The probate process can take longer if there are complicating factors or disputes over the will.
When Is Probate Necessary?
Probate is not always necessary when someone passes away. It depends on their assets and debts. For example, distribution of life insurance proceeds does not require probate. The beneficiary for such policies is normally pretty clear. Other situations require probate to facilitate the transfer of assets. For example, if a deceased owned real estate, the probate process is necessary to transfer ownership.
Types of Probate Proceedings in MA
There are two types of probate procedures in Massachusetts: formal and informal.
Informal Probate in MA
Informal procedures are often used when:
- The decedent died domiciled in Massachusetts;
- Not more than three (3) years have passed from the date of the decedent’s death;
- No court has appointed an executor of the estate and no appointment proceedings are pending;
- No interested person objects to the informal petition; and
- If there is a will, it does not specifically request a formal administration.
The informal procedure takes place without a judge. After paperwork is filed, no additional steps are necessary unless someone files a petition. All individuals with an interest in the estate must be notified in that case.
Formal Probate in MA
Formal Probate proceedings may take place if…
- It has been less than 3 years since the decedent’s death;
- There is a petition to contest the appointment of an informal personal representative (within 1 year of that person’s appointment); or
- There are issues requiring formal administration, such as matters including minors lacking legal guardians.
Formal probate proceedings do not necessarily require a court hearing with a judge. A Court Magistrate can actually approve it if there are no issues that need to be resolved.
Distributing Property and Closing the Estate in MA
The executor of a Massachusetts estate can distribute assets to heirs after any debts and taxes are paid. He/she must follow instructions outlined in the will or as determined by state law. Unless the probate is formal and court-supervised, this process takes place informally. The executor must simply file a statement confirming that creditors have been satisfied (or that the one year timeframe has lapsed), the remaining assets have been distributed, and written details have been sent to all parties involved.
Attorney Representation for MA Probate Hearings
You have the option for attorney representation for MA probate hearings. Martino Law Group is located in Melrose MA and services all of Eastern Massachusetts. We understand the probate process and can guide you through each step and hearing.