If you agreed to be the executor of a family member's will, you may not have truly understood what duties you are expected to perform upon his or her death. The Massachusetts probate process requires that certain steps be taken before the estate can be distributed and considered closed. Below are the basic steps that must be taken during the administration of an estate.
Many Massachusetts residents look forward to retirement and make sure that they plan for it. However, they fail to plan for what comes after retirement -- the probate process. Moreover, retirement plans could be interrupted by an illness or accident. Failing to plan for either of these possibilities could lead to other problems in the future.
An estate plan is designed to take care of the family members left behind after a Massachusetts resident passes away. Ordinarily, the documents are set up to make estate administration easier and less time-consuming for his or her loved ones. However, dealing with the particulars of how everything will happen is too much for some loved ones. In that case, it will not matter how well an estate plan is crafted.
It might be difficult for Massachusetts fans of Robin Williams to believe that it has been nearly six months since he passed away. He attempted to set up a conflict free estate plan that provided for the people he loved, but that has not stopped his heirs from finding their way into court. The contentious probate process is not over the big assets that he owned -- instead, it is about his personal items.
By now, most Massachusetts residents are aware that the circumstances surrounding Joan Rivers' death may be suspect. For this reason, Rivers' daughter, Melissa Rivers, has retained counsel to file a medical malpractice claim against the party or parties believed responsible for her mother's death. The way that Joan Rivers structured her estate plan, estate administration should not have been necessary. However, now that a lawsuit regarding her death is being initiated, it is required.
When Massachusetts residents are creating their estate plans, one of the most important decisions they have to make is who to appoint as the executor of their estate. In making this crucial choice, it may be helpful to understand the role that an executor plays in estate administration. Here is an overview of an executor's responsibilities.
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.
Without an up-to-date estate plan, there is little to no guarantee that a Massachusetts resident's assets will end up with the person or persons intended. This will also make the probate process more difficult for family members, since they have no guide as to how an individual wanted his or her property distributed after death. There could also be additional time and costs expended in order to settle the estate.
One main goal of the estate planning process is to avoid probate. However, for an unmarried individual or someone wanting to leave an asset to a non-spouse, avoiding the Massachusetts probate process could end up being more costly. The tax advantages that a surviving spouse receives upon the death of a spouse do not exist for any other beneficiary.
Massachusetts residents may have heard of an ongoing probate dispute pending in a neighboring state. When an elderly woman died in Dec. 2012, it was discovered that she had left a substantial amount of her assets to a police officer she had developed a relationship with after he answered a call about an intruder at her home. Now, objections have been filed in the woman's probate regarding the $1.8 million in assets it is estimated were left to him. The officer has been accused of unduly influencing the elderly woman, causing her to leave him the assets, but those accusations were determined to be unfounded in one investigation.