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Massachusetts probate process part 2: What is formal probate?

In a previous article this column discussed one of the three different types of probate offered in the state of Massachusetts — informal probate. This week’s column will continue the probate topic, only this time focusing on formal probate litigation. As is true with anything, knowledge is power. Those who understand how the probate process works can have an easier time getting through it when called upon to administer a loved one’s estate.

Unlike informal probate which is handled by a magistrate, formal probate hearings occur in court before a judge. If there is not a valid will, the judge will get to decide how an estate is ultimately administered. The formal probate process may take a number of hearings before it is complete. It all depends on the complexity of the estate.

Why might formal probate be necessary? There are actually several reasons as to why an estate may be subject to the formal probate process, rather than going through one of the other available options. These reasons include:

  • Objections to informal probate
  • Invalid will
  • Need of supervised administration
  • Minors or heirs require representation
  • Final decree requires the signature of a judge

The formal probate process can take longer than other forms of probate litigation. It is also slightly more complex and can be a confusing thing to go through without the assistance of legal counsel. Massachusetts residents who are faced with going through the probate process before they are permitted to administer the estate of a loved one can turn to a probate litigation attorney for help in order to get through it in a swift and smooth manner.

Source:, “What options are available to probate an estate? — Formal Probate“, Accessed on Jan. 4, 2017


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