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Massachusetts probate process: What is informal probate?

In Massachusetts, there are three different forms of probate that may be used when closing out a loved one’s estate. These are informal, formal and late and limited. This week, this column will work to address the informal probate process and what it entails.

When one thinks about probate, the word time comes to mind. Probate, generally, takes quite a bit of time to complete — months or even years. Informal probate is different, however.

Informal probate is handled by a magistrate, not a judge. There are no hearings. It is a simple, straightforward, expedited process. In fact, informal probate can be completed in as little as seven days after a loved one’s death.

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, it can be, for those who are allowed to use this form of probate. Unfortunately, there are very strict requirements that must be met in order to proceed with informal probate. This type of probate may not be used if the following circumstances exist — among others:

  • An original will cannot be located
  • No official death certificate was issued
  • Heirs or beneficiaries cannot be located
  • Beneficiaries are minors lacking approved representation

The probate process, whether informal, formal or late and limited, can be a confusing thing for one to get through without assistance. Those going through probate in Massachusetts can seek legal help in order to ensure everything is properly completed. An experienced estate planning and probate attorney can provide assistance at every step of this process, making sure it is finalized as swiftly and smoothly as possible.

Source:, “What options are available to probate an estate? — Informal Probate“, Dec. 14, 2016


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