Whether you are the personal representative named in a loved one’s will or are dealing
with the hassles of trying to close the estate of a relative who died without a will,
Jennifer A. Deland, Counselor of Law is well-prepared to assist you. Aware that probate issues in Massachusetts can be complicated, and that this is a difficult time for you, she will provide you with compassionate support and an efficient approach to probate. Contact Deland Law Office to discuss your best options.
What Exactly Is Probate?
According to Mass.gov, probate is the process of transferring the property and ownership of the deceased; in other words, probate officially validates a will. The task of handling probate matters falls to the personal representative (executor) named in the decedent’s will. This is one of the reasons it is so important to have a will. If a person dies without a will (intestate), the court will assign someone, usually a close relative, to assume the role.
The Duties of a Personal Representative in Massachusetts
Whether you are assuming the role of a personal representative or planning your estate, it is essential to understand the duties and responsibilities involved in being an executor. Executors and estate administrators (those named by the court as personal representatives) are tasked with several important duties, including:
- Notifying the named heirs, beneficiaries, and other interested
parties, such as legitimate creditors, of the decedent’s passing
- Inventorying and appraising estate assets
- Opening an estate bank account
- Paying the decedent’s debts
- Filing the decedent’s final income taxes
- Paying federal estate taxes, if applicable
- Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries
- Closing the estate
Personal representatives and estate administrators are considered fiduciaries, meaning they must prioritize the best interests of the beneficiaries, follow applicable probate laws, and can be held legally liable if they fail to do so. That’s why it’s crucial to work with a probate attorney who can explain your role in depth and will protect you from making costly mistakes.
If you are preparing a will, we can also help you select an executor. While it is common to name a spouse or adult child for the position, the person you appoint must be trustworthy and capable of handling the financial matters associated with administering an estate.
Not All Massachusetts Estates Have To Be Probated
Some estate assets need not be probated, including:
- Money gifted to others, up to $17,000 per recipient in 2023
- Real property in which title is held jointly, with the right of survivorship
- Property held by an irrevocable trust since it is no longer owned by
the person who created the trust (the trustor, grantor, or settlor)
- Life insurance policies and retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries
- Bank and investment accounts with pay-on-death (POD) designations
Any or all of the above can lower your estate taxes by lessening the total value of your estate. The irrevocable trust can also protect your privacy since it is not a matter of public record, unlike probate.
Why Probate Costs Vary in Massachusetts
Probate in Massachusetts can be costly in terms of time and money. Numerous factors can affect how long the probate process takes and how much it costs, including:
- Size and complexity of the estate (e.g high-net-worth and estates
- with many properties in other states or countries take longer)
- Type of estate plan used
- Whether disputing heirs contest the will
Personal representatives often work hard and long to settle an estate. In many states, executors earn a small percentage of the estate’s worth. In Massachusetts, however, though the courts agree that this work should be compensated, state law states only that there should be “reasonable compensation.”
In many cases, the deceased has made the person named as executor also a beneficiary; in others, the court may decide on what is a reasonable amount according to the factors listed above. It should be noted that fees associated with probate duties (e.g. for appraisers) are paid out of estate funds. Also, personal representatives, whether chosen by the deceased or the court, can turn down the job if they feel it will pressure them or take up too much of their time.
As far as the duration of the probate process is concerned, most estates are settled in 6 to 12 months, though complex estates may take a good deal longer.
How Jennifer A. Deland, Counselor-at-Law Can Help You With Probate
Jennifer will assist you in navigating the probate process with personal attention and respectful awareness that you are performing challenging duties at a challenging time. Above all, she will ensure that:
- All beneficiaries and heirs have been identified
- Proper documents are in place to transfer the decedent’s real property
- All valid creditor claims have been paid and any improper claims denied
- All assets have been transferred to the proper beneficiaries and you have
properly documented this distribution
- Titles to all inherited assets have been changed
- All needed paperwork filed and the estate has been correctly closed
Jennifer will also help you settle any incipient familial disputes along the way.
Contact Our Experienced Probate Attorney Today
Probate’s reputation as a problematic or inconvenient process is not entirely unfounded. That’s why it is critical to have an accomplished probate attorney at your side as you tackle it. With Jennifer Deland as your lawyer, you have nothing to worry about. Contact Deland Law Office now and see how smoothly estate planning needs can be handled when a true professional is at the helm.
Jennifer A. Deland, Counselor-at-Law advises clients about probate matters throughout
the Metrowest area, including Holliston, Hopkinton, Milford, Medway, Medfield, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Sherborn, Dover, Southborough, Sudbury, and Westborough.