Formal and informal probate in Massachusetts

On Behalf of | May 29, 2024 | probate

As you go through the probate process, you may have many questions. One of your first questions might be what type of probate to file. Many people are not even aware that Massachusetts has two different types of probate: formal and informal.

Formal probate

Formal probate is generally a more traditional type of probate proceeding. It involves a hearing in front of a judge.

There are various reasons to file for formal probate rather than informal probate. Generally, if there are problems with the will, formal probate is necessary.

Problems with the will could mean the terms of the will are vague or have modifications, such as handwriting that makes wording unclear. Formal probate is also usually necessary if any heirs are minors or incapacitated.

If there are issues with who should be appointed a personal representative for the estate, formal probate is necessary. This is a person who oversees the administration of the estate.

You must go through formal probate in cases when supervised administration is necessary. This occurs when a court must approve everything done by the personal representative.

When a personal representative is not appointed in the will, the estate must go through formal probate. A court chooses a personal representative based on a ranking system.

Informal probate

As you can imagine, informal probate saves time, money and stress. Informal probate is typically the preferred way to go.

However, you must have certain documents and meet specific requirements to qualify for informal probate. You must have the official death certificate and original will.

You must also know who all the heirs are and where they are located. You can stay in informal probate even if an heir is a minor or incapacitated, so long as they are represented by a guardian or conservator.

Overall, informal probate is an option if nothing in the process would require a judge to sign some type of order.