What does it mean to "probate an estate"? In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Probate and Family Court oversees the settlement of estates for deceased residents. Whether or not you die having left a will, your estate will be probated through this court system, provided you have left assets in your own name, and provided those assets exceed $15,000, excluding the value of your automobile.
An attorney experienced in probate practice will assist family members to:
- collect asset and debt information
- file timely tax returns (perhaps referring the preparation to appropriate tax professionals)
- file appropriate court documents
- obtain a license to sell real estate, if necessary or deemed prudent
- deal with creditors and insolvency
- obtain releases of the estate tax lien, where necessary
- prepare inventories of assets and file accounts with the court as necessary
- assist with proper distribution of the estate among beneficiaries
Probating an estate is often a lengthy process, by necessity, because the estate must usually remain "open" until at least a year has passed, to give creditors time to file liens for debts owed, and also to ensure that any state or federal tax obligations are satisfied.
An experienced probate attorney can make this lengthy process less stressful, particularly for family members who may already be carrying a heavy burden of grief.
* this information is accurate as to statutes and probate procedures in effect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as of August 10, 2009, the date of this publication, but is not legal advice, nor intended to be legal advice, and does not constitute an attorney-client relationship *