Probate is simply the court process by which the terms of a Will are carried out by the person named as Personal Representative in a Will. The procedures discussed below are applicable for Massachusetts Estates. Other states may follow different steps.
Personal Representative Not Authorized to Act Until the Probate Court Accepts the Will and Appointment
Although a Will names a person as Personal Representative, until the proper procedures have been followed, the probate court considers the person named as merely nominated as Personal Representative. In order to have the nomination accepted by the court, certain documents must be filed and procedures followed. Once these papers and procedures have been followed, the Personal Representative is officially appointed and may start to act on behalf of the estate.
Getting Probate Started
The first step in the Probate process is to file the original Will, death certificate, Petition for Probate, Bond Application, and Military Affidavit in the local probate court. Generally, the appropriate court is the Probate Court for the county in which the decedent resided. Filing fees vary depending on which probate process is being initiated. This fee must be paid at the time of filing. Massachusetts Probate and Family Courts Filing Fees
A copy of the Petition for Probate and a copy of the death certificate must be sent to the Division of Medical Assistance, PO Box 15205, Worcester, MA 01615.
Once these papers have been filed and the filing fee paid, the court will send a Citation to either the attorney who opened the probate file, or the named Personal Representative if no attorney has been used. This citation is the legal notice that is published in the newspaper. The court will direct in which newspaper the Citation must be published, and a copy of the citation must also be sent to the heirs listed in the Petition for Probate.
The Citation has the date by which anyone who wishes to object to either the Will or the appointment of executor, must file their paperwork in the Probate Court. Unless an objection is filed, after the date specified in the Citation, the Will is considered accepted and the Personal Representative appointment becomes official. Court certified copies of the Personal Representative appointment may be ordered from the Court. Each certified copy is $25.00. Most financial institutions will want to see an original certified copy of the appointment of the Personal Representative, but most will be happy to make a copy and return the original.
For the complete statutory requirements for probating estates, see M.G. L. ch. 190B