Braintree Probate Lawyer – Serving Quincy, Hingham, Cape Cod, and the Greater Boston Area
After a death, under Massachusetts law, the estate of a decedent goes through a process called probate. Probate refers to the legal process of gathering, administering, and accounting for a decedent’s assets, discharging liabilities, preparing and filing tax returns, and distributing any remaining assets to the beneficiaries, if there is a will, or to the heirs if there is no will.
Appointment of the Personal Representative
The first step in the probate process is the appointment of a Personal Representative, which must be approved by the probate court. If your loved one specified who should serve as the Personal Representative in a will, that person has priority to be appointed.
If your loved one died without a will, or if the person named in the will as a Personal Representative is unable or unwilling to serve in this capacity, someone else (usually a close family member) may volunteer to serve as the Personal Representative.
Once a Personal Representative is appointed, we can continue to help you through the estate administration process, including the preparation and filing of items required by court so that the probate process can proceed.
Serving as a Personal Representative
In many instances, the person serving as a Personal Representative will not have served in that capacity before. I understand. At the outset, if you are the nominated Personal Representative, I will meet with you to review the estate of your deceased loved one, and to determine the actions that will need to be taken to initiate the probate process.
Personal Representatives will often have many questions concerning their duties and the actions that should be taken, particularly with respect to estate management and estate distribution. My role is to undertake legal aspects associated with the probate process, including advising Personal Representatives as to their duties and answering their questions.
Often such questions include topics such as what should be done immediately with respect to the management of an estate (such as whether mortgage payments and insurance payments should continue to be made on a house and other maintenance issues), whether and how to pay for debts of the estate (including accessing bank accounts to pay such debts and the timing of any payments) and, ultimately, how and when estates should be distributed (particularly with respect to assets that have not been specifically provided for in a will). I help Personal Representatives not only with respect to these and other matters concerning the probate process, but also how to do so in a manner that will best protect them in the event of a will or probate contest by potential beneficiaries or heirs.
The Duties of Personal Representatives
Once appointed, the duties of a personal representative generally include the following:
- Making an accounting for all assets in the estate. This will include tangible assets, real estate, financial accounts, stocks and securities, and any other interests of any kind (which can even include the right to file a lawsuit). I help Personal Representatives prepare the necessary documents associated with an inventory and accounting of estate assets.
- Protect and preserve estate assets. If, for example, the estate involves real estate, the Personal Representative may need to ensure that the insurance is paid (if applicable) and that other routine property maintenance is undertaken. I am available to answer questions and to help Personal Representatives attend to these matters, including accessing bank accounts to secure the money to take care of these items.
- Filing final tax returns. I can work with a Personal Representative to retain a qualified tax preparer who can then prepare and file any required estate tax and income tax returns.
- Distribution of assets. I help Personal Representatives document the distribution of estate assets in accordance with the decedent’s will or intestate laws. Often, it will be advisable to obtain a document signed by the heirs or beneficiaries agreeing to such distribution.
- Filing court documents and closing probate. At the end of the process, I prepare and file the necessary documents to formally close the probate process.
My Role – Minimizing Your Work
If you are undertaking the role of Personal Representative, I will carefully guide you through this process. I will be available to answer your questions, to advise you as to various matters that may arise, and to prepare and file necessary court documents.
Call Me Today to Get Started
I offer a free, no-obligation consultation. I invite you to call me today to schedule a meeting at your convenience.