By Attorney Abigail V. Poole
After a loved one passes away, sometimes probate of one or more assets held in the deceased’s name is necessary. Probate is the process by which a person is given legal authority by the court to access, manage and distribute the assets titled in the individual name of the deceased at the time of death. There are three (3) common types of probate in Massachusetts from which to select depending on assets, family dynamics, and other factors. The simplest, quickest and least expensive type of probate is a voluntary administration.
A voluntary administration is available if the deceased died with $25,000 or less in total probate assets, plus not more than one (1) vehicle in his or her individual name. Other than the vehicle, the assets can be bank accounts, certificates of deposit, unclaimed property, stock, and savings bonds. However, a voluntary administration may not be filed for estates where the decedent owned an interest in real estate. If a Voluntary Personal Representative later discovers assets that cause the total estate value to be more than $25,000 or the Voluntary Personal Representative requires full legal authority to administer an aspect of the estate, the voluntary administration can be converted to one of the other types of probate.
A great example of when a voluntary administration may be a good fit is the situation where the surviving spouse discovers $15,000 of stock in the deceased spouse’s individual name. The surviving spouse may file a voluntary administration and once the voluntary statement is certified by the court, that surviving spouse will be able to gain access and direct the sale of the stock and distribution of the proceeds, or direct the transfer of the stock to him- or herself.
At Samuel, Sayward and Baler LLC, an experienced attorney will assess the deceased’s assets and other relevant information to assist you with determining the type of probate that best fits your situation. This thoughtful and comprehensive approach to filing for the most suitable probate process means that you will be better prepared to confidently address your current and future estate responsibilities.
Attorney Abigail V. Poole is an associate attorney with the Dedham firm of Samuel, Sayward & Baler LLC which focuses on advising its clients in the areas of trust and estate planning, estate settlement and elder law matters. She is an active member and current President Elect of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). This article is not intended to provide legal advice or create or imply an attorney-client relationship. No information contained herein is a substitute for a personal consultation with an attorney. For more information visit ssbllc.com or call 781/461-1020.
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