On March 31, 2012, the Uniform Probate Code, an extensive and important piece of legislation became effective in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This greatly transformed the administration of wills and estates. Under the new law, there are several types of administration options available.
In most cases, the administration of an estate may proceed informally. This type of administration provides that the personal representative under the will, formerly known as the executor, may be appointed as quickly as 7 days after the proposed personal representative sends notice by mail to the interested parties.
Upon appointment, the personal representative may commence the collection of assets and attend to other administration matters. Although certain procedures remain, such as preparing an inventory, publishing notice in the newspapers, and circulating accounts, these are not under the mandatory supervision of the court. As such, the new law depends upon the personal representative to privately perform these tasks.
This type of administration is best when beneficiaries are agreeable and the circumstances of the estate are non-controversial. In the event a controversy arises, a beneficiary or the personal representative may elect to file with the court to begin a formal administration.
Under the new law, a formal administration proceeding is “…litigation to determine whether the decedent left a valid will.” This is the judicial determination of the validity of a will or the appointment of an appropriate personal representative, but after the court has made such a decision, the estate administration is unsupervised. This type of administration may be brought within three years of death, even if informal probate has been granted. It will be best when there is some legal question regarding the proceedings, the possibility of controversy among the beneficiaries, or if questions arise about a previously commenced informal administration.
This type of administration requires continued supervision by the court of the activities of the personal representative. The personal representative may not make any distribution of the estate without a court order. Supervised administration is best in complicated and controversial estates, where continual access to the court will be a necessity.
The new law continues to provide for voluntary administration, but increases the size of the estate eligible for this proceeding. In the event that no probate has commenced within 30 days after death, a statement may be filed with the court providing under oath that the signatory will administer the estate according to the will or as provided under the laws of intestacy. There is no further court involvement.
In order to be eligible for voluntary administration, the decedent must be a resident of Massachusetts, cannot own real estate at the time of their death and the decedents’ assets, excluding a car, must be $25,000 or less.
An experienced estate planning attorney would be of great assistance in providing insight into which administration process is best suited for your situation.
Todd C. Ratner, Esq.
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