Probate Litigation

“Probate litigation” is often used in a legal sense to refer to disputes that arise over the assets or property that a deceased individual leaves behind. Because these types of disputes often involve family members, emotions tend to run high and can interfere with the ability of individuals to think clearly in a court of law, it often proves essential to retain the services of experienced legal counsel during these situations.

How the Probate Process Occurs
Probate is a legal process that occurs when the title to the property (whether real or personal) of a deceased individual is transferred to others. While not always necessary, probate is a court-supervised process by which a will, if there is one, is validated by the Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.  Once the state has validated the will, a personal representative is then assigned.  This personal representative is often either named in the deceased individual’s will or appointed by the court. The personal representative is bestowed with several powers including the abilities to have the individual’s assets or property appraised, identify and determine the value of the deceased individual’s property, pay any of the deceased individual’s outstanding debts or taxes, and distribute any of the property that remains from the deceased individual.

Probate Can Include a Variety of Obstacles
When a loved one passes away and the probate process ensues, a variety of obstacles can arise.  Not only can emotions run high during this difficult time, individuals are also forced to deal with the personal belongings left behind by the deceased individual.  As a result, relying upon experienced and skilled legal representation can help clients proceed through the probate process more smoothly.

Small Estates
If certain requirements of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are met, certain properties become “small properties” and are excluded from the probate process. In the event of a “small estate”, an estate’s administration can occur without any oversight from the Probate and Family Court.

Some Estate Planning Tools Do Not Avoid Probate
For example, wills do not avoid probate.  Instead, wills allow individuals to control how the probate process occurs because individuals are allowed to name an executor of choice in addition to what parties will receive property or assets and other various methods.  Without a will, the elements of the probate process are governed by various other laws that exist in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

What Assets Are Subject To Probate
Assets that are held in the name of a deceased individual are typically considered assets that are subject to probate, which means that the court’s assistance is needed in transferring the title to the deceased’s heir.  In the event that an asset is held in more than just the deceased individual’s name, depending on the form of joint ownership, this asset is often not considered to be subject to the probate process and would automatically pass to the surviving owners.  It is also worth noting that assets with beneficiary designations pass automatically to the designated beneficiaries rather than remain subject to probate.

Massachusetts Resources for Probate Litigation


Wills & Estates

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