When a loved one passes, the last thing on your mind is typically how to probate an estate. It is normal to feel mildly depressed and have such a sense of hopelessness that you could care less about anything aside from the funeral and burial services. Unfortunately, when someone passes, it also brings a great deal of responsibility to those that are left to arrange everything and help distribute property in an estate. Sometimes smaller estates can be handled without an attorney, but mistakes with accounting and procedural deadlines can often be costly further down the road. A well drafted will should name a responsible party for distributing the estate, known as the Personal Representative. However, the same forms can be filed in cases without a will.
Personal Representatives (formally known as Executors) can be appointed by the Court or named in a decedent’s will. If you want to be the Personal Representative, and there is no will, you will have to file the Informal or Formal Probate petition. However, if you are already named as the Personal Representative, you may file a Voluntary Statement if you meet the criteria for filing listed below.
The administration of an estate is entirely guided by the MUPC (Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code). The new laws standardized and streamlined many of the objectives of settling an estate. First, lets take a look at the required procedure for Voluntary Administration:
1. Before doing anything, the value of the estate must be less than $25,000.00
2. You must wait until 30 days have expired since the time of death for the deceased person.
3. You must gather a certified copy of the death certificate for filing.
4. Fill out the Voluntary Administration Statement. By filing this form, you are seeking to become a Voluntary Personal Representative and have signed under the pains of perjury that the estate is valued at less than $25,000.00.
WHO CAN FILE? An “interested party” – heirs, devisees, children, spouses, creditors, beneficiaries or those who have a property right or claim against the estate.
5. Mail a completed Voluntary Statement to the Division of Medical Assistance by certified mail. (This is mandatory and listed on the statement as a requirement).
6. Wait for the certified copy of the Voluntary Statement to arrive in the mail. Once received, you may perform your duties as Personal Representative for the estate.
FOR ESTATES VALUED AT MORE THAN $25,000.00 – Informal or Formal Probate is required.
1. You must send a notice of Informal Probate with Return of Service to each interested party, typically all heirs or potentially other beneficiaries by will or the intestate statute. (Notice Requirements by law here)
2. After 7 days, the Petition for Informal Probate may be filed. In this petition, if you intend to act as the Personal Representative (“PR”), you must indicate such on the petition. Additionally, if the interested persons (like younger brother and sister for example) are not opposed to you serving as PR, then you can file their “Waivers of Notice.” This can be done by using Form 455, Assent and Waiver of Notice.
3. If no objection to the Informal Petition has been made by heirs, then the Petition will be approved administratively by a magistrate in the Court.
4. When you have received approval of your filing, you must next publish notice of the Informal Probate in a local newspaper. This is fairly straightforward and you can contact any local newspaper listed here: Court list of newspapers by county.
5. If there are still no objections, than you may begin your duties as a Personal Representative and settle the estate. You will receive an Order from the Court.
Stay tuned for more exciting information on Petitions for Formal Probate…