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How Probate Laws Work in Massachusetts | Probate Advance


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When someone dies, their estate must go through the probate process so that creditors and beneficiaries can be paid out of the money they are owed. Probate in Massachusetts can be hard to understand for people who have never been through it before. This is especially true of the charges and fees that come with it. In this article, we’ll look at the probate process in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as the costs and fees that come with it.

How Probate Laws Work in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Probate Procedures

The Massachusetts probate process process begins when a person dies and their will is filed with the Probate and Family Court in the county where they lived. If there is no will, the court will choose an administrator to take care of the estate.

Once chosen, the executor or administrator is in charge of making an inventory of the estate’s assets, paying off any debts, and giving the rest of the estate assets either to the people named in the will or, in the absence of a will, in accordance with Massachusetts intestate law.

Depending on the size and number of issues, the probate process could take months or even years. An experienced probate lawyer can help you understand the process and protect your rights.

Fees and Costs for Massachusetts Probate

There are a number of costs and fees associated with Massachusetts probate. The following are some of the most common probate fees and charges:

The Massachusetts Probate and Family Court charges fees for filing various probate documents, such as petitions, accountings, and inventories. These expenses are based on the size of the estate.

Fees for an attorney: 
An experienced probate lawyer can help you get through the probate process and make sure your rights are protected. The price you pay your lawyer depends on how much time they spend on your case and how complicated your estate is.

Executor Fees:
An executor of an estate is entitled to compensation for their work. The charge is based on the size of the estate and is limited by state law in Massachusetts.

Fees for Appraisers:
If the estate has land or other valuable assets, an appraiser may be needed to determine their value. Depending on how difficult the appraisal of real property is, the price could change.

Bond Posting Costs:
The executor of an estate may be asked to put up a bond to show that they will do their job. The bond premium is required by Massachusetts law and is based on the total value of the estate.

It’s important to remember that these costs can quickly add up and significantly reduce the value of an estate. You can save money and make sure your rights are protected by hiring an experienced probate lawyer. Understanding the costs and fees associated with Massachusetts probate is essential because they can quickly add up and significantly reduce the value of the estate.

Is Probate Required in Massachusetts?

Probate is the process by which a court oversees the distribution of a person’s estate after their death. The process can be complicated and time-consuming, and it often comes with significant costs and fees. If you live in Massachusetts, you may be wondering whether probate is required in your state.

The short answer is yes, probate is required in Massachusetts for most estates. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.

When Is Probate Required in Massachusetts?

In Massachusetts, probate is required if the deceased person:

  • Owned any real estate in their name alone or had assets valued at $25,000 or more in their name alone at the time of their death.

  • Had a personal representative (executor) who will need to be appointed by the court.

For example, if a person had a bank account with a co-owner or a life insurance policy with a designated beneficiary, those assets would pass directly to the co-owner or beneficiary outside of probate. However, if a person owned several bank accounts, a house or a car in their name alone, those assets would typically need to go through probate before they could be transferred to the deceased person’s heirs or beneficiaries.

It’s also worth noting that even if probate is not technically required, it may still be a good idea to go through the process. Probate can provide a level of legal protection and ensure that the deceased person’s wishes are carried out correctly.

Can an Executor of an Estate in Massachusetts be Compensated?

Yes, a Massachusetts executor of a will can be paid for their work. In fact, Massachusetts law says that executors, who are also called personal representatives, should be paid fairly for running the estate.

Most of the time, the compensation is based on a percentage of the total value of the estate and how hard it is to run the estate. Massachusetts law says that the fee can’t be more than 5% of the total value of the probate estate, but the actual fee can be less than that depending on the situation.

It’s important to remember that the compensation is subject to court approval, and the executor must file a fee petition with the court explaining the services provided and the amount of compensation being asked for. The court will look at the petition and think about a number of things, such as how much time and effort was spent, how hard it was to run the estate, and how much it was worth.

Also, the executor may choose not to get paid if they are a family member or someone who will benefit from the estate. This can make it easier to avoid any possible conflicts of interest or claims of wrongdoing.

Overall, an executor of an estate can be paid for their work, but it’s important that the payment is fair and follows Massachusetts law.

How Much Does an Executor in Massachusetts Get Paid?

In Massachusetts, the compensation of an executor (also called a personal representative) for administering an estate is determined by the probate court, as there is no fixed percentage or amount stated in the law. The compensation is typically based on the complexity of the estate, the time and effort required for administering it, and the overall value of the estate.

The fee paid to an executor is considered taxable income, and the executor should report it on their personal income tax return. If the will does not specify the executor’s compensation, the court may approve “reasonable” compensation, which can vary depending on the circumstances.

In some cases, the executor and the beneficiaries may agree on a fee or the executor may waive the fee, especially if they are also a beneficiary of the estate. It is important to note that any expenses incurred by the executor during the administration of the estate, such as the estate taxes, court filing fees, legal fees, or accounting fees, are separate from their personal compensation and can be reimbursed from the estate’s funds.

Types of Probate in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, there are three main types of probate: informal probate, formal probate, and voluntary administration. Which type of probate is appropriate will depend on the specifics of the case, as each has its own rules and procedures.

Informal Probate

In Massachusetts, the majority of estates go via an informal probate court supervised legal process here. When there are no questions about the validity of the will or the appointment of the executor, the probate process is sped up. The probate court will choose an executor, who will be responsible for carrying out the deceased’s wishes as stated in the will.

Formal Probate

Formal probate is used when there are disagreements about the legality of the will or challenges to the choice of the executor. The executor must notify all parties and interested persons in this type of probate, which requires a formal court hearing. Formal probate is also used when there is no will or when the will is called into question. In this case, the court will choose an administrator to handle the distribution of the estate.

Administration voluntarily

When the estate is small and there are no disagreements about how to divide the assets, voluntary administration is a simple method that can be used. Before the estate can be managed voluntarily, it must have at least $25,000 in it. The executor or administrator may be chosen by the beneficiaries or by the probate court.

How Long Does Probate in Massachusetts Take?

The size and complexity of the estate and the type of probate action can affect the length of Massachusetts probate.

Probate might take months or years. Probate involves several steps, each of which can take time.

Probate begins with a request to open the estate. After court approval, the executor or administrator must list the deceased’s assets and debts. This may take time if the deceased had a large or complicated estate.

Next, notify anyone affected by the probate process. Notifying beneficiaries and creditors is required.

After notifying heirs and beneficiaries, the executor or administrator must pay estate debts. Mortgage payments, credit card debt, and medical bills are examples.

The beneficiaries can then receive the estate’s remaining assets according to the will or Massachusetts law. To prove fair asset distribution, the executor or administrator must file a final accounting with the court.

Who Serves as Personal Representative?

In Massachusetts, the person responsible for administering a decedent’s estate is known as the personal representative. The personal representative can be an executor, administrator, or special administrator, depending on the circumstances.

If the decedent had a will, the personal representative is typically the executor named in the will. If the the decedent died and did not have a will, or if the will did not name an executor, the court will appoint an administrator as the personal representative.

The personal representative has a number of important responsibilities, including gathering the decedent’s assets, paying any outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. The personal representative is also responsible for filing any necessary paperwork with the court and ensuring that all legal requirements are met.

In some cases, the personal representative may choose to hire an attorney or other professionals to assist with the administration of the estate. However, any fees associated with these services must be approved by the court and paid out of the estate’s assets.

It’s important to note that serving as a personal representative can be a time-consuming and complex task. If you have been named as a personal representative or are considering serving in this role, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced probate attorney.

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in Massachusetts?

Yes, a will must be probated in Massachusetts. Probate is the legal process of transferring assets from a deceased person to their heirs. It is necessary to probate a will in Massachusetts because it is legal representation that ensures that the will is valid and that the deceased person’s wishes are carried out.

There are two types of probate in Massachusetts: formal probate and informal probate. Formal probate is the more traditional type of probate and it involves a court proceeding. Informal probate is a simpler process that can be done without a court proceeding.

To probate assets from a will in Massachusetts, you will need to file the will with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived. The court will then review the will and determine if it is valid. If the will is valid, the court will issue an order that allows the assets to be transferred to the heirs.

The probate process can be complicated and it is important to have an attorney help you if you are going through a probate proceeding. An attorney can help you understand the probate process and make sure that your rights are protected.

The Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code

The Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) is a set of laws that governs the probate process in the state of Massachusetts. The MUPC was enacted in 2012 and represents a significant overhaul of Massachusetts probate law.

The MUPC aims to simplify and modernize the probate process in Massachusetts by creating a streamlined, uniform set of rules for handling estates. Some of the key changes introduced by the MUPC include:

  1. Simplified probate proceedings: Under the MUPC, there are now two types of probate proceedings – informal and formal. Informal probate proceedings are simpler and less formal than formal proceedings, and can often be completed more quickly and with less expense.

  2. Electronic filing: The MUPC allows for the electronic filing of probate documents, making the process faster and more efficient.

  3. New rules for trusts: The MUPC introduces new rules for trusts, including the ability to create a “pour-over” will that transfers assets into a trust upon the testator’s death.

  4. Changes to estate administration: The MUPC clarifies the role of the executor or administrator of an estate and provides guidelines for their compensation.

  5. Simplified rules for guardianship and conservatorship: The MUPC creates a simpler process for appointing guardians for minors and conservators for incapacitated adults.

By streamlining and modernizing the probate process, the MUPC aims to make it easier for families to settle estates and for individuals to plan for their own end-of-life needs.

How Long Do You Have to File Probate After a Death in Massachusetts?

Within three years of a person’s death, a probate case must be opened in Massachusetts. This means that you have three years from the date of the decedent’s death to file a probate case if you are named as the executor of an estate or if you believe you may be entitled to inherit from an estate.

Although you have up to three years to file, it is best to start the probate process as soon as possible after the person’s death. Formal probate proceedings can be a time-consuming and confusing procedure, so the sooner you get started, the sooner the assets and personal property can be distributed to the proper heirs and beneficiaries.

In addition, there can be pressing matters that can’t wait until the end of the three-year period, like paying bills and taxes. Not dealing with them on time might lead to fines and other legal difficulties.

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