Countless clients have walked through our doors over the years, loved one’s will in hand, asking why they are denied access to that loved one’s assets. With honest intentions, they want only to distribute the assets based on the will that was left behind. This is when the subject of probate comes up for the first time. “What is probate”?
Probate quite literally comes from the Latin probare, which means “to prove”. After a loved one passes, their will needs to be “proven” in Probate Court, and a “Personal Representative” must be named. A Personal Representative, or Executor, is the individual who will execute the distribution of the deceased person’s estate, both in paying debts and distributing according to the will. This is all accomplished by meeting the State/County’s filing and notice requirements.
Once the court reviews the will to ensure that it meets the requirements of validity, and notice requirements have been met, the court will issue “Letters of Authority” which name the Personal Representative and grant him or her the ability to access the deceased’s bank accounts, records, etc.
We highly suggest that you consult with an attorney prior to embarking on the probate process. There are many different factors to consider, such as the size of the estate (if it is small enough, you may be able to undergo a more streamlined process, called “Voluntary Administration” in Massachusetts), if there is real estate involved, if there is no will (probate will still be necessary to name a Personal Representative, however distribution of the estate will have to be completed based on statutes), if there are any charities involved, etc.
Attorney Abbe McLane has assisted clients with the probate process for many years, and is available for a consultation to discuss your personal situation.