How Probate Laws Work in Massachusetts

If you lost a family member who lived in Massachusetts, you may wonder what the next steps should be. You have an estate to deal with, assets to divide or sell, and other obligations to take care of on the person’s behalf. While this is often a sad time, certain duties must still be fulfilled.

To take care of a deceased person’s estate, you must go through probate. This is a legal process, which ensures the provisions of a will are met. The court is tasked with overseeing the process and interpreting any details of the will that are unclear. You need to know some basic information about probate for the state of Massachusetts.

Is Probate Required in Massachusetts?

In most cases, probate is required for estates in Massachusetts. However, there are different options for probate in the state, which can make the process easier. Informal probate is the simplest method because it can allow an order to be issued within seven days after the person’s death. For informal probate to be allowed, there must be a will and supervised administration isn’t necessary.

How Do You Avoid Probate in Massachusetts?

To avoid having an estate go to probate in Massachusetts, you would need all the assets to have named beneficiaries. In some instances, this happens in the normal process of setting them up. For instance, a life insurance policy or retirement account will usually have someone named as beneficiary. This could also be the case with bank accounts and other assets. However, any assets that don’t have named beneficiaries would still need to go through probate.

The best way to avoid probate completely is to set the estate up in a revocable living trust. When the owner of the trust dies, the named beneficiaries of the trust would automatically get the assets without going through probate.

In certain situations, voluntary administration may be allowed in place of probate. The estate must be valued at or below $25,000 with no real estate and excluding the value of an automobile.

Can an Executor of an Estate in Massachusetts be Compensated?

Massachusetts law allows for a personal representative of executor to be paid for their expenses. This guidance is found in Section 3-719. It also states that the representative may renounce any or all compensation.

How Much Does an Executor in Massachusetts Get Paid?

The Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code doesn’t specify an amount the executor may receive for their services. It states that they may receive reasonable compensation. This statement allows the court to determine what is reasonable based on the size and complexity of the estate, how much work the representative must do, and what was paid in similar estates. The representative may renounce any or all of the compensation if they choose, but it must be filed with the court. The decedent may also have stated the amount of compensation in their will, which the court and representative would follow unless it were renounced by the representative.

How Long Does Probate in Massachusetts Take?

The timeline for probate in Massachusetts can vary based on several factors. The size of the estate will play a big part in determining how long it will take because everything must be inventories. If any assets must be sold, that will also lengthen the timeline. Even the simplest estate will take at least four to six months to be completed. Creditors have up to a year to submit a claim against the estate. If someone contests the will or has any other disputes, it will extend the timeline significantly. Some complex estates can take years to close.

Do All Estates Have to Go Through Probate in Massachusetts?

Most estates will need to go through probate in Massachusetts because they don’t meet the requirements to avoid it. However, those that have been set up with named beneficiaries or meet the other requirements to avoid formal probate will not need to go through the process.

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in Massachusetts?

Yes, a will must be filed with the court in the county where the decedent lived. The court will establish the validity of the will and ensure that all provisions in the will are upheld.

Settling an Estate in Massachusetts

Settling an estate in Massachusetts is similar to what is done in every other state. The basic steps are the same, but the deadlines and other details may be different. It’s important to know the rules for probate in Massachusetts even if you have gone through the process in another state.

How Long Do You Have to File Probate After a Death in Massachusetts?

You have up to three years to file probate after someone dies in Massachusetts. However, there is an allowance for filing a late petition for probate after that time if there is cause.

Probate Court in Massachusetts

Each county in Massachusetts has its own probate court. The state government site provides a list of the courts and their locations Probate and Family Court Locations | Mass.gov.

Probate Code in Massachusetts

Massachusetts follows the Uniform Probate Code to simplify probate proceedings. The statutes are found in Massachusetts Code Title II Chapter 190B Chapter 190B (malegislature.gov).

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