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What situations make probating an estate necessary?

It is not always required to go to probate court to pass an estate to heirs. Still, some circumstances do not allow you to avoid probate. It is important to know some of these situations, particularly if you are going to be an estate executor in the future.

According to the state of Massachusetts, whether or not you can avoid probate generally depends on the nature of the property and the legal situations that may arise regarding a decedent.

Property that is part of a probate estate

There are many kinds of property that you can directly pass to someone through a legal provision such as a right of survivorship or a beneficiary designation. For example, life insurance pays out to an assigned beneficiary after the policyholder has died. Property in a trust can also go directly to beneficiaries without the need for probate.

By contrast, property that is only in the name of the decedent requires the use of probate. A probate proceeding will legally allow for the changing of property titles to a different person.

Legal matters concerning the deceased

There are often lingering debts and final payments that the personal representative of the deceased must attend to. Opening up a probate case is necessary to close out these matters, such as the following:

  • Paying off debts owed by the decedent
  • Filing the final tax return of the decedent
  • Paying the last taxes of the decedent
  • Acquiring the medical records of the decedent

Sometimes probate is necessary because a court has to settle whether or not the will is valid. Knowing all of these situations in advance is important if you wish to factor them into your estate planning to minimize probate.


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