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How does probate work in Massachusetts?

During probate, the court supervises the administration of your estate by your designated personal representative. When you plan your estate, you may want to implement strategies to help your loved ones avoid a time-consuming, costly probate process.

Review the details about probate in Massachusetts to inform your estate plans.

Probate-exempt assets

Some assets can transfer directly to your intended beneficiaries without probate, such as:

  • Property you transfer to the ownership of a trust
  • Accounts for which you have named a beneficiary, including investment accounts, retirement accounts,
  • Assets with right of survivorship, such as a home you own with someone else

To reduce or eliminate the assets that must go through probate, you can create and fund a trust as well as designate beneficiaries for financial accounts.

Types of probate

Massachusetts has both formal and informal probate proceedings. Both types start when the personal representative files a petition with the probate court in the county where you lived.

Your personal representative can request informal probate when he or she has the original will and the official death certificate. The personal representative must know the identity and location of all beneficiaries. Minor beneficiaries must have representation from someone other than the personal representative.

Formal probate is a longer process that requires legal hearings. Your estate may be subject to formal probate if it does not meet the informal probate requirements, such as if the will is handwritten or its terms are unclear.

By carefully planning your estate, you can help ensure that your loved ones receive inheritance as intended after your death.


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