If you have recently lost a loved one, Westborough probate lawyer Todd Rosenfield offers his sympathy. He knows how overwhelming and confusing dealing with the estate of a deceased loved one can be for the families left behind, even if there was a well-written will. If they did not prepare a comprehensive estate plan before they passed, a Massachusetts court process known as probate will likely determine how their assets should be distributed. Probate can be complex; having the assistance of a professional probate attorney can give you reliable guidance and legal clarity you need to navigate the process. Let Attorney Todd Rosenfield lead you every step of the way through probate.
What Is Probate?
Massachusetts enacts the probate process when someone passes away without legally transferring their assets to beneficiaries beforehand. Many people think that having a will is all that they need to make sure their family members receive their inheritance, but wills have to go through probate in order to be validated and carried out. While every probate is unique, here is a list of what is involved in a “typical” probate:
- Locate and file the decedent’s Will (if he or she had one) with the local probate court
- File necessary probate documents with the court
- Locate, inventory, obtain custody, close and transfer personal assets and accounts
- Appraise and determine the value of all assets
- Ascertain, and then notify, all known creditors of the estate
- Make payments to creditors, discharge the decedent’s obligations and obtain creditor releases
- Process and obtain life insurance death benefits, if any
- Secure the decedent’s residence and tangible personal property
- File tax returns and make appropriate tax elections
- Pay estate taxes and final personal income taxes, if any
- Obtain tax releases and closing letters from the IRS, local courts and state taxing authorities
- Make specific bequests, together with partial and final distributions, to beneficiaries
- Provide detailed accounting to beneficiaries and the local probate court
These tasks are the responsibility of the personal representative named in the will. If no will was made, Massachusetts probate courts use a specific process to handle asset distribution. In most of these “intestate” probate cases, the court appoints a personal representative, typically a family member who meets the basic requirements of a legal executor. Will executors and personal representatives alike may need help understanding the probate process and what steps they need to take in order to avoid liability, which is why hiring a Westborough probate attorney can be beneficial.
What Are the Downsides of Probate?
When a loved one passes away, and their estate has to go through probate, family members can’t take immediate possession of their estate. Instead, the Commonowealth of Massachusetts will require you to begin and complete the probate process before you or any of your loved one’s assets can be legally transferred to you and the other beneficiaries. For example, you may not be able to sell your loved one’s house or even make renovations until the probate process is complete.
Probate can take anywhere between 12 to 18 months or more to finish. There are many factors that can affect how long probate takes, including the number of beneficiaries, whether or not there is a dispute over the validity of or contents of the will, the speed at which the Massachusetts probate courts work, and more. Any mistakes can delay the process further.
Multi-Stage Process & Liability
The probate process requires you to meet several deadlines, pay fees, and adhere to confusing legal requirements. If you hold the title of personal representative or estate executor, you bear the brunt of any fines or liabilities due to issues incurred during the probate process.
How Can A Probate Attorney Help You?
If you are facing probate, your best option is to enlist the assistance of a Westborough probate attorney who can determine if there is any way you can avoid probate, and if not, explain your next steps, answer your questions, and generally handle all of the paperwork and court communications for you so that you can focus on moving forward. Dealing with probate is a headache during an already difficult time; Attorney Todd Rosenfield can simplify the process and prevent you from making costly mistakes. His goal is to take the burden of probate off you by providing professional advice and representation. He can also help you create an estate plan so that your family will not have to endure probate when you pass away.
Types Of Probate
In Massachusetts, beneficiaries of a loved one’s assets and belongings may face one of four types of probate processes. Which one will apply to you depends on your specific circumstances. A Galveston probate lawyer can more thoroughly explain each type of probate process and help you decide which probate form is right for you.
Late and Limited Formal probate
Are You Facing Probate Court in Westborough MA?
Don’t take on the probate process without a knowledgeable Westborough probate attorney on your side. Whether you are experiencing a probate issue or have just lost someone and aren’t sure whether you need probate, call The Socius Law Firm to schedule a free consultation and discuss your situation. Attorney Todd Rosenfield has over 30 years of experience guiding grieving families through probate. You can rely on his to give you the caring legal support you need, save you time, money, and stress along the way, and make a difference in how quickly and easily your case is resolved.
Questions Our Clients Often Ask
At the Socius Law Firm, we believe estate planning is a process where you design a blueprint that:
- allows you to control your property when you are alive and well
- enables you to control how your & your loved ones are cared for in the event of incapacity
- allows you to control how your assets are managed, used and passed in the event of your death
- enables you to save every last tax dollar, professional and court cost.
While this is typically accomplished through a set of estate planning documents, it is crucial to keep in mind that estate planning is not only about the documents themselves. It is about making a series of informed decisions and taking a series of thoughtful actions, all of which are designed to ensure that in the event of your incapacity or death, things will transition in the way you would have hoped, with the least disruption possible and with minimal or no intrusion by the court.
Learn more about the Socius Law Firm's unique 6-Step Estate Planning Process.
Both a Will and a Trust are useful estate planning documents, but understanding their differences will help you decide which is right for your particular estate planning objectives and personal circumstances.
Find out why a Will alone may not be the best choice for you and your family by viewing our side-by-side comparison chart.
As the foundation of the modern estate plan, a Revocable Trust helps you control how your assets are managed and used while you are alive and well, if you become incapacitated, and after you die.
A Living Trust enables the coordinated distribution of all of your assets, while maintaining the greatest degree of asset control and flexibility - both during your lifetime and after death.
There are many important benefits of Trusts beyond federal and MA estate tax considerations such as:
- Avoiding probate and ensuring a smooth transition
- Protecting assets
- Planning for incapacity or disability (without Court oversight)
- Controlling distributions to beneficiaries (give what you have…to whom you want, the way you want, when you want)
- Maintaining 100% privacy
We offer four levels of comprehensive estate planning - each highly customized to meet your unique family situation. Plan fees are dependent upon your personal values, goals and objectives.
From starter plans primarily for families with young children and little in the way of financial wealth, to more robust plans for well-established families who want to avoid probate, provide asset protection and eliminate or minimize estate taxes, we offer estate planning levels to meet your needs and objectives. Estate planning fees generally range from $1,200.00 up to $8,500.00 on the high end for an extensive estate plan. We also offer several advanced estate planning options for those who need even more planning.
At the Socius Law Firm, we have established a unique estate planning process where we listen and learn about you, your family and personal circumstances, thoroughly explain the estate planning options available to you and custom design, implement and maintain a comprehensive estate plan that reflects your specific concerns, fears, goals and objectives. Our process is designed to ensure your confidence at each step along the way, from the initial planning meeting through the delivery and implementation of your completed plan and beyond. The ultimate outcome of our estate planning process is to give you peace of mind.
We all like to put off important tasks and wait until the very last minute, this includes estate planning. There is always “something” that would be more fun to spend time doing or money on. However, honestly there are few things that are more important and none that are a better investment for yourself and your family. Take the first step….
Probate is a process whereby the Probate Court supervises the transfer of assets from a person who has passed away to the new lawful owners.
Probate is generally a long, frustrating and expensive process. Much of our practice is devoted to using trusts and other planning tools to help our clients avoid probate altogether. However, for families who did not do probate avoidance planning, we are frequently hired to guide them through the probate process.
If you become mentally incapacitated, you won’t be able to manage your own financial affairs. Many are under the mistaken impression that their spouse or adult children can automatically take over for them in case they become incapacitated. The truth is that for others to be able to manage your finances, they must petition the Probate Court to declare you legally incompetent.
This process can be lengthy, costly and stressful. Even if the court appoints the person you would have chosen, they may have to come back to the Probate Court every year and show how they are spending and investing the money.
If you want your family to be able to immediately take over for you without Probate Court interference, you must designate a person or persons that you trust with the use of a Durable Power of Attorney.
A Health Care Proxy allows you to appoint someone you trust - for example, a family member or close friend to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. Without a Health Care Proxy, your loved ones would have to petition the Probate Court for authority to make medical decisions on your behalf.
In addition to a Health Care Proxy, you should also have a Living Will which informs others of your preferred medical treatments such as the use of extraordinary measures should you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.
At the Socius Law Firm, we have developed an expertise in planning for the well-being and care of children should the unthinkable happen. We call this advanced legal planning — Kids’ Safeguard Planning.
Kids’ Safeguard Planning is based on the premise that a Will alone is simply not enough to protect minor children should both parents die or become incapacitated.
If you are a parent of minor children, your estate plan needs to include Kids’ Safeguard Planning to ensure your children will always be taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, and never put in a situation you wouldn’t like.