What exactly is this thing called probate?
Probate is often referred to as the seven letter dirty word in society due to the time, cost, and expenses associated with the process. However, this stigma is not justified as Probate is necessary to ensure the orderly transition of assets and payment of liabilities due to the death of a person.
Simply put, probate is the process of identifying and transferring assets owned by a person who has died (referred to as the "decedent") to the individuals or entities (referred to as the "devisees") legally entitled to receive the assets, pursuant to instructions in the decedent's Last Will and Testament, after any taxes and legally enforceable debts and expenses against the decedent's estate have been paid. If the decedent failed to leave behind a Last Will and Testament, those legally entitled to inherit the assets are determined by Massachusetts inheritance laws.
On March 31, 2012, Massachusetts has adopted the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code ("MUPC") which impacts the probate process by promoting efficiencies for the court in the administration of trusts and estates. Ultimately, the MUPC is designed to simplify, streamline, and clarify the process of settling a decedent's estate in a manner consistent with the decedent's intent. Under the MUPC, the process for "formal" probate will provide the Court supervision that was in place pre-MUPC, whereas "informal" probate will provide a cost-effective process for estates that are not contested. Both processes have pros and cons associated with them and should be carefully evaluated before proceeding in either direction.
As the personal representative (previously referred to as "executor") of an estate, you will need to navigate the probate process, which is filled with procedural entanglements and traps for the unwary when making distributions to those entitled to receive property or paying the taxes and debts of the decedent, that can be a potentially perilous and difficult undertaking by the inexperienced. Simply put, you do not want to go it alone. Retaining an expert in this field will not only ensure the estate is settled correctly, but also protect you from making a mistake that could result in personal liability.
At FLP, we credit our extensive experience and knowledge in this area of law to ensure that the estate is properly settled, the process is efficient, and that our client is protected. When settling the estate of a loved one, our experience, compassionate disposition, and ties with the community will put your mind at ease during that difficult time.