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What are the requirements for informal probate in Massachusetts?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2021 | probate

The loss of a loved one is an emotional time for family members left behind. People might not want to think about the technical issues surrounding the person’s estate, but it is necessary. In Massachusetts, probate might be needed to ensure the decedent’s will is adhered to. Whether it is a large, medium or small estate, it is important to understand how probate works. Part of that is knowing whether informal probate can be used. The circumstances will dictate if the case requires informal or formal probate. Since it is unfortunately common for people to have disputes over wills, having guidance through this complicated territory is beneficial.

Understanding informal probate

Under informal probate, the proceeding is held in front of a magistrate rather than a judge. There is no hearing as there would be with formal probate. A benefit of informal probate is that it takes a significantly shorter amount of time to complete. The informal order can begin within seven days of the person’s death. Still, certain criteria must be met before informal probate can be used. The original will must be in possession. There must be an official death certificate. Anyone who is listed as an heir or who will receive property as part of the will must be known and located.

The personal representative ensures the contents of the will are carried out. This person will receive priority for appointment – this is needed to rank those who could be named as the personal representative. There cannot be supervised administration meaning that any steps the personal representative takes would require court approval. A judge is not needed to intervene and sign a final decree or order to move forward with the contents of the will being carried out.

Informal probate can save time and money

Informal probate is generally far easier than formal probate. Examples of when formal probate might be needed are if the will is unclear, there were handwritten changes or there is an ongoing objection to informal probate. Some people want to avoid probate altogether. When creating an estate plan, a person should be cognizant of the positives and negatives of probate, if informal probate is preferable and how to prevent family members from engaging in dispute over the assets after the testator has died. Having professional advice is imperative with any estate planning issue and consulting with those who are experienced in all aspects of probate, wills and more can be helpful.