With the enactment of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, Massachusetts modernized the probate process. In many instances, especially when the heirs are in agreement, the probate procedure can be relatively painless. For these estates, the informal procedure is used, which is conducted by a court official called a magistrate. The personal representative (the title given to the person who is supervising the estate) collects all of the property of the estate, pays the debts, and distributes property to those entitled. Formal probate is necessary if there's a dispute among the beneficiaries. The proceedings for these estates are overseen by a judge. The judge approves actions of the personal representative and interested persons must be given notice of proposed actions and can they can object. Sometimes, there are further complications, such as when property is owned in another state or country.
Many people have asked me about what happens when a person dies without a will. Some have even told me that they thought all of the person's property went to the state if they died without a will. Don't worry, no such drastic event happens! When a person dies without a will, the law specifies who inherits the decedent's property. The technical term is "intestate succession." The difference, then, is that with a will you determine who inherits your property and without a will, the state specifies it. And you might not like who that is.
If you have in interest in an estate and require representation or have questions, feel free to contact me for a consultation.