Many Massachusetts residents are aware that losing a loved one is difficult. Not only is it necessary to handle the funeral and burial, but any real and personal property owned by the deceased family member will need to be distributed -- hopefully in accordance with a will and/or trust. This distribution and/or transfer of property is the purpose of the probate process, as well as wrapping up any other financial issues of the decedent, including his or her debts.
A loved one's property is transferred to his or her heirs through probate, with some notable exceptions. Assets that pass by "operation of law," meaning they are subject to a beneficiary designation such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Any assets owned jointly with the decedent or are gifted during his or her life will also not need to pass through probate. Further, any assets held by a trust will not be subject to probate, which is the court-supervised distribution of assets.