When a Loved One Dies: The Legal Landscape
Guide to Handling a Loved One's Affairs After Their Passing in Massachusetts
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is an emotionally challenging time, made even more complex by the legal and financial aspects that must be addressed. In Massachusetts, understanding the legal landscape when a loved one passes away is crucial to ensure a smoother transition during this difficult period. Let's explore what steps you can take and how we can help you navigate this process.
Handling the Financial Affairs of the Deceased: Understanding Authority
Upon a loved one's passing, it's vital to comprehend the various assets left behind and the steps required to access and manage them. Here's what you need to know:
Non-Probate Assets: Assets That Pass Automatically
Non-probate assets typically fall into two categories:
Assets Requiring Probate Court Approval
Assets not falling into the non-probate categories will necessitate Probate Court approval before distribution. This typically includes vehicles, individually owned real estate, personal property, and individual bank accounts. While some assets may be sold by the estate before probate completion, they must be authorized by the court, and the proceeds held by the estate until final distribution approval.
Starting the Probate Process: Informal vs. Formal Administration
Massachusetts offers two estate administration options: informal and formal. Informal administration is typically available when the original will is intact and there are no handwritten notations or additions. It's also suitable when all heirs are known and their locations are identified. Even in cases where there's no will, informal proceedings can be employed to appoint a personal representative, provided you follow required notice procedures and face no objections from other heirs.
Identifying the appropriate proceeding for your situation is the initial step, which entails identifying all heirs named in the will or those who will inherit under Massachusetts intestacy laws. Notice to these individuals is essential during the filing process. You will also require an original will (if available) and an original death certificate.
For most families, informal proceedings are applicable and can be pursued with or without legal representation. The state provides online instructions for probating an estate, but overlooking a step can result in prolonged settlement and asset distribution timelines. Our experienced team can assist you in navigating this process efficiently.
First Steps After the Loss of a Loved One
When you're ready to address the financial matters surrounding your loved one's passing, consider the following steps:
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Wondering How to Get Started With a Loved One's Estate?
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How Our Estate Planning and Probate Lawyers Can Help
During this challenging time, you don't have to face these legal and financial complexities alone. Our knowledgeable team is here to guide you through every step of the process, ensuring that your loved one's affairs are handled with care and efficiency. You can use the button below to schedule a free information call, or simply give us a call at 781-784-2322.