Estate Administration & Probate

Estate Administration & Probate

Bereavement can be very stressful.  Vaughn-Martel Law can assist you in this difficult time.  We represent clients in the performance of their role as executor(rix), administrator(rix), or other fiduciary. capacity.  Vaughn-Martel Law can immediately coordinate and assemble the necessary forms and paperwork required to administer your loved-one's estate according to their wishes, while you attend to funeral and other important personal and family matters.  We will deal with and coordinate the Probate Court, various banks, tax and other professionals for you during this time.

Probate

When a loved one passes away, his or her estate generally goes through a court-managed process called probate or estate administration where the assets and real property of the deceased are managed and distributed.  The length of time needed to complete the probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate and the local rules and schedule of the probate court.  Because creditors have up to one year within which to make claims on the estate of the deceased, the probate process In Massachusetts generally takes at least 12 months, if not more.

Every probated estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:

  • Filing of a petition with the proper probate court.
  • Notice to heirs under the Will or to statutory heirs (if no Will exists).
  • Petition to appoint Executor (in the case of a Will) or Administrator for the estate.
  • Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by Executor/Administrator.
  • Payment of estate debt to rightful creditors.
  • Sale of estate assets. 
  • Payment of estate taxes, if applicable.
  • Final distribution of assets to heirs.
  • Submission of a final accounting to the court by the Executor or Administrator.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What happens if someone objects to the Will?

Does a court administer all of the property of the deceased?

Do I get paid for serving as Executor?

How much does probate cost?  How long does it take?

What happens if someone objects to the Will?

An objection to a Will, also known as a “Will contest” is a fairly common occurrence during the probate proceedings and can be incredibly costly to litigate.

In order to contest a Will, one has to have legal “standing” to raise objections.  This usually occurs when, for example children are to receive disproportionate shares under the Will, or when distribution schemes change from a prior Will to a later Will.  In addition to disputes over the tangible distributions, Will contests can be a quarrel over the person designated to serve as Executor.

Does a court administer all of the property of the deceased?

Probate is primarily a process through which title is transferred from the name of the deceased to the names of the beneficiaries. 

Certain types of assets are what is called “non-probate assets” do not go through probate.  These include:

  • Property in which you own title as “joint tenants with right of survivorship”.  Such property passes to the co-owners by operation of law and do not go through probate.
  • Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts where there are designated beneficiaries.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • Bank accounts with “pay on death” (POD) designations or “in trust for” designations.
  • Property owned by a living trust.  Legal title to such property passes to successor trustees without having to go through probate.

Do I get paid for serving as an Executor?

Executors are reimbursed for all legitimate out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the process of management and distribution of the deceased estate.  In addition, you may be entitled to statutory fees, which vary from location to location and on the size of the probate estate.  The Executor has to fulfill his or her fiduciary duties on behalf of the estate with the highest degree of integrity and can be held liable for mismanagement of estate assets in his or her care.  It is advised that the Executor retain an attorney and an accountant to advise and assist him with his or her duties.

How much does probate cost?  How long does it take?

The cost and duration of probate can vary substantially depending on a number of factors such as the value and complexity of the estate, the existence of a Will and the location of real property owned by the estate.  Will contests or disputes with alleged creditors over the debts of the estate can also add significant cost and delay.  Common expenses of an estate include executors fees, attorneys fees, accounting fees, court fees, appraisal costs, and surety bonds.  Most estates are settled though probate in about 12 to 18 months, assuming there is no litigation involved.


Vaughn-Martel Law represents clients in Suffolk County, Middlesex County, Essex County, Norfolk County, Plymouth County, Bristol County, Worcester County, Hampden County, and Franklin County. In Suffolk County MA, our Boston divorce attorneys and other attorneys can represent you if you reside in Allston MA 02134, Boston MA, East Boston MA 02128, Back Bay MA 02116, Beacon Hill MA 02114, Brighton MA 02135, Revere MA 02151, Cambridge MA 02139, Cambridge MA 02140, Charlestown MA 02129, Jamaica Plain MA 02130, Winthrop MA 02152, Roxbury MA 02118, Roxbury Mission Hill MA 02120, and Chelsea MA 02150.

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| Phone: 617-357-4898
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