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What's involved in probate, and what isn't

If you are unfamiliar with the language of estate planning in Massachusetts, the thought of probate could seem overwhelming. However, it does not have to be. We at the Curley Law Firm often guide spouses, children and other family members through the legal process.

FindLaw explains that probate is simply the procedures necessary for taking care of your loved one's property. It includes the following:

  • Validating the will
  • Appointment of a personal representative
  • Inventory of assets
  • Payment of debts
  • Filing any tax returns required by the federal and state governments
  • Distribution of the remaining property to the beneficiaries listed in the will

Your loved one probably named the person he or she wanted to take care of many of these duties in the will. The court typically designates that person as the personal representative, also known as the executor. This is a significant responsibility with quite a bit of authority. For example, to pay debts or taxes, the executor may sell property without seeking the approval of the court or the family. A person does not have to accept the appointment. You could also file an objection with the court if you do not approve of this appointment. 

Certain assets are not involved in the probate process. For example, if you and the deceased were both on the title to a home, you are now the sole owner. Similarly, any joint accounts would also be yours. If your loved one had life insurance, pensions and certain types of retirement accounts, he or she would have named one or more beneficiaries of the proceeds. These would go directly to those people without being subject to probate. Assets placed in a revocable trust would also bypass probate. More information about wills and probate is available on our webpage.

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