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What is the probate process?

The Massachusetts probate process may seem complex and difficult to understand, but it does not have to be that way. Getting answers to common questions about what the probate process is can help estate planners and families know what to expect from probate.

Probate essentially refers to the transfer of property following the death of the estate planner. Property is usually transferred by will and the probate process collects property, pays debts from the estate and ensures the property is distributed according to the wishes of the estate planner. The probate process ensures that the will was valid and is a process conducted by the court. In general, probate may be contested or uncontested. The process involves collecting all probate property of the estate planner; collecting all rights to income or dividends; paying all debts and claims against the estate and taxes owed by the estate; settling any disputes; and distributing and transferring remaining property to the estate planner's heirs.

In most circumstances, the reason estate planners and families may wish to avoid the probate process is because of the fees associated with it. Fees can include those for a personal representative during the process, courts costs and other fees as well. There are options estate planners may consider to avoid the probate process including utilizing the joint ownership with the right of survivorship designation; gifting property and assets and the use of revocable trusts.

Because there can be technicalities and legal requirements involved, it can help to have trained guidance to help with these considerations and to develop the best estate plan for the individual estate planner. In addition, knowing how probate figures in and what that process looks like, can also help estate planners and their families.

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