Many Massachusetts residents take it upon themselves to prepare estate plans that minimize their chances of having to go through probate. Probate is not an inherently bad process, but it can be time consuming and costly if it drags on long after a decedent's passing. There are several sets of circumstances that can individuals to utilize the probate courts so as to avoid other possible legal problems in the administration of estates.
Probate may be required if the decedent had a will executed prior to their death. Though the will alone may seem like enough to use find and distribute the decedent's assets, when questions or concerns about the will's validity exist, a probate court may be needed to sort those issues out. Additionally, a will may not fully inform the heirs how to distribute all of a decedent's assets, and probate may therefore be needed to provide clarity on certain items of property.
Probate may be needed if a decedent did not execute a will. Dying without a will is often called dying "intestate," and the laws of intestacy in Massachusetts explain how assets should be distributed to decedents' heirs when no testamentary intent is communicated. Probate can help families in this difficult process work through asset distribution when no wills are executed and available.
Whether probate will be needed for a specific estate will depend on the testamentary tools that the decedent has created and how their estate is structured. An estate planning attorney can help an individual prepare an estate that may avoid probate, but eluding the process may not always be possible. Guidance on individual estates and probate questions should be directed to trusted legal professionals.