In Massachusetts, the Probate and Family Court Department has jurisdiction over family-related and probate matters such as divorce, abuse prevention and wills, estates, trusts, guardianships, conservatorships, and changes of name.
Whether a person has a will or not, the probate court provides the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person by resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person’s property. In Massachusetts, there are two kinds of probate: “informal” and “formal.” Generally, the probate court decides the validity of a last will and testament, interprets the instructions of the deceased, approves the executor/personal representative, addresses claims of the estate, and adjudicates the interests of heirs and other parties who may have claims against the estate. With a properly structured estate plan, it is possible to avoid probate.
Sometimes, clients present trusts drafted many years ago that require interpretation or modification. While it is frequently not possible to change the terms of a trust, the probate court has broad powers in certain circumstances, particularly where the parties concerned come to an understanding.
A will contest is a formal objection raised as to the validity of last will and testament. Such objections are based on the contention that the will does not reflect the actual intent of the testator (the party who made the will), based on the assertion that the testator lacked capacity or was subject to undue influence or fraud. Will contests also happen in the probate court.
If you have a question about probate, please contact Steve today.