Probate Without a Will

Dealing with the death of a loved one is always challenging. In addition to the emotional turmoil, you face many practical concerns that need to be addressed in a short time.

Winding up financial matters is one of those challenges. Massachusetts imposes a lot of legal requirements that can be quite confusing. Whether or not the deceased person left a valid will, there is still a good chance you will need to deal with formal probate. Even attorneys hire a lawyer when it comes time to deal with probate.

At Jordan & White, LLC, we manage the probate process efficiently, economically and compassionately. Every case is unique, but here are some general guidelines for handling probate without a will.

What is Probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process for paying debts and distributing assets in a person’s estate after they pass away. Contrary to popular belief, an estate is not something connected only with the rich–everyone leaves some type of estate behind when they die.

The government wants to ensure that creditors have a chance to get their money repaid before it is disbursed to family or friends. So probate laws establish specific rules about notifying potential creditors and paying debts.

The person in charge of handling all the requirements of probate is the personal representative, sometimes called an executor. The court usually appoints the personal representative named in the will, but if there is no will, then the court designates a family member to serve in this role. Even if they are named in a will, that person has no authority to act until they are authorized by the court. The court must approve many steps in the probate process. The personal representative can even be held liable if they fail to follow some of the rules. 

The Laws of Intestate Succession

When the deceased person did not leave a will or the court decides that the will they left is not legally valid, then the laws of intestate succession determine who inherits the assets remaining after all bills are paid.

Some assets will not become part of the estate, and they can go directly to another person without going through probate. This includes property with a transfer on death deed or accounts with a beneficiary clause.

Property that is part of the estate will pass according to the priorities established in the intestate succession laws. If the deceased person had a spouse and parents living but no children, for example, the laws specify that the spouse gets the first $200,000 in assets and then the spouse and parents split everything else in a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio.

Let a Dedicated Probate Attorney Handle the Headaches of Estate Administration

An experienced probate attorney can review a family situation when there is no will and determine whether you may be eligible to use the informal probate proceedings, which are simpler and require less court supervision. Regardless of the process involved, however, guidance from a probate attorney can reduce your concerns and make the ordeal much less trying.

At Jordan & Whilte, LLC, we can handle many matters directly on behalf of the personal representative, saving your family time and allowing you to focus on other critical matters. To find out more about how we could help you with probate with or without a will, give us a call.