Probate Process in New Bedford

The process of distributing a person’s estate often brings families into unfamiliar territory. Not only can the deadlines, forms, and questions involved be confusing, but the questions concerning who should be in charge or what the terms of the will mean might even cause fights among family members.

It can be hard to face these questions alone, especially because choosing which probate process to pursue is critical, and time is of the essence. A knowledgeable lawyer at our firm could help you navigate the trusts and estates system, including the probate process in New Bedford. Call now to speak with one of our trusted probate attorneys about your current situation.

What Is Probate and When Is It Needed?

Probate is the process of determining where property can be distributed after its owner has died. The probate system in Massachusetts exists to help determine the decedent—or person who passes away. Massachusetts divides this process into those with wills and those without wills.

Not all property that a decedent owned will be part of the probate process. Jointly owned property, such as a house titled to both husband and wife, will not be included in the process. Property with a named beneficiary, such as life insurance, will also not require probate. However, probate may be needed when there are questions about the validity of a will, the title to a property should be changed, or creditors need to be paid. A New Bedford attorney with experience navigating the probate process could help families assess these needs.

How To Choose The Right Process

There are a few options for probating an estate in Massachusetts. The choice comes down to whether there is a dispute over property, confusion about the terms of the will, or if the estate is complex. Massachusetts has both formal and informal probate, as well as a third option called voluntary administration that may be available for some estates. A well-practiced legal professional could help families in New Bedford choose which of these options is the right probate process for them. Choosing the right process is important, especially if there is a need to sell real estate or if minor children are involved.

Informal Probate

Some estates may not need orders from a judge to be distributed. Less complex estates, such as those with known heirs or clear wills, may benefit from using the informal probate process. This can be a faster process as it uses a magistrate instead of a judge.

Formal Probate

Formal probate may be required when parties dispute the terms of the will, parts of the will are crossed out or handwritten, or when people in the will cannot represent themselves—like children who are minors.

Late and Limited Formal Probate

Some special circumstances rarely arise in probate, but when they do, they may make the distribution of the estate difficult. These rare circumstances include supervised administration of the personal representative’s actions, or a process called late and limited formal probate. Seasoned probate lawyers in New Bedford could help people determine if these special circumstances apply and the best process for working through them.

Who Is the Personal Representative?

One of the most important decisions in probating a will is appointing the person who will make decisions on behalf of the estate, such as locating all the property and notifying all the heirs. The courts give priority to certain people: those named in the will or the decedent’s surviving spouse if they died without a will. Parties may dispute this appointment if the person with top priority is incapable of taking on these duties or is no longer living. A proactive attorney could advocate for the appointment of the best choice in personnel.

Meet With a New Bedford Probate Attorney to Learn About the Process

If you are worried about the details of probate and property administration after the death of a loved one, you are not alone. Many people seek clarity around the probate process in New Bedford. A diligent trusts and estates lawyer could help you find answers, advocate for strong choices in probate court, and choose the right probate process. Call one of our skilled attorneys today to get started.

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