How long does probate take in Massachusetts?
The passing of a loved one can be a trying and emotionally taxing time. During the grieving process, the thought of handling the legal procedures to transfer a passed loved one’s house or close down their bank account can seem overwhelming. Often, once the initial mourning subsides, family members will revisit these estate settlement steps to make sure all assets are properly transferred, but sometimes this does not occur and the deceased’s name remains attached to them. This can lead to many complicated situations for the whole family.
One of the initial actions you should take in handling your loved one’s estate is to determine if they passed away with or without a will. This information will aid in determining the next steps for administration. In the event you can’t locate a will among their possessions, or if you have found one but are unsure if it’s the most recent version, it’s advisable to check if there is a copy available at their attorney’s office or stored in a safe deposit box.
Additionally, anyone in possession of the decedent’s will must deliver it within thirty days of learning of their death to someone authorized to probate the estate or, in the absence of such a person, to the probate court in the decedent’s place of residence.
What is Probate?
There’s a lot of legal terms that are part of common conversation in everyday life. Sometimes, these legal terms are brought up during moments of joy, like when talking to someone about marriage, adoption, or buying a house. Other times, these terms are more somber. Probate is one of those legal terms. But, what is probate?
Probate refers to the management of a deceased person’s estate. In the presence of a valid will, the probate process involves verifying the validity of the will, following its directives, settling any outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the designated beneficiaries. In the absence of a will probate will involve distributing the assets according to the laws of the state.
The Law Offices of Kimberly Butler Rainen is an estate planning and probate law firm in Massachusetts committed to providing accessible information to help educate the public and our clients. We recognize that navigating the complex world of estate planning and probate can be a daunting task for many individuals and families. If you would like to learn more about estate planning and probate in Massachusetts check out our blog and video library.
What is the probate process and how long does it take?
Opening the probate process
If there is a will then the estate submits the will along with a petition to the county probate court, requesting its recognition as a valid document. The court takes several weeks to approve or reject the will.
Once the court validates the will, the executor, who is named in the will to oversee and distribute the estate, is given legal authority to commence the probate process. Notifications must be sent to all beneficiaries specified in the will. In the event the deceased did not have a will, notifications must also be sent to any potential heirs who may have inheritance rights.
This process can take up to two months to complete.
The second step in the probate process, which can be time-consuming, involves informing the creditors of the deceased about the death and the start of the probate process. In Massachusetts, creditors have up to 12 months to make a claim against the estate for payment of debts.
Once claims are submitted, the executor, who serves as the representative of the estate, evaluates the legitimacy of the claims and decides whether to approve or reject them. If the payment of the debt is denied by the representative, creditors have a year to file a legal claim against the estate to recover their debts. In the event a creditor files a lawsuit, the court must resolve the legal matter before the assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries.
This step of the probate process can take years to complete.
In some cases, taxes are the most complicated process that the death of a family member causes. A probate lawyer will most likely be your best resource during the tax process of a probate case. Federal, state, and local taxes must be filed and paid as well as any potential estate tax burden.
How long does this all take?
Probate lawyers work hand-in-hand with the executors and beneficiaries of an estate to settle the affairs of the deceased. They may be required even if the deceased did not leave behind a will. A probate attorney is responsible for handling any potential roadblocks that may arise, such as unexpected potential heirs, assets located in multiple states, unique assets, or conflicts between beneficiaries. All things considered, depending on the complexity of an estate, potential delays, and required bureaucratic and legal steps, the probate process can take anywhere between 6 months to multiple years depending on the specific circumstances.
Consider Kimberly Butler Rainen for your estate and probate issues
At the Law Offices of Kimberly Butler Rainen, we offer comprehensive support with probate administration. Our services range from complete guidance throughout the process to tailored advice as needed. We can help with tasks such as submitting the petition for appointment of the personal representative, managing the estate’s assets, resolving the debts of the estate, filing estate tax returns, distributing inheritances to the heirs, presenting the accounts to the court, and finalizing the estate. Give us a call for a confidential case assessment or follow this link to submit a form for more information.