While there are some ways to expedite the process and reduce the amount of inherited property involved, some legal proceedings are almost inevitable when a loved one dies. Properly understood and carried out, probate often brings emotional closure in these situations, but if it gets out of control, probate litigation can become an expensive mess.
That’s why we compiled a list of the five major components of most probate proceedings in The Bay State, because in almost any area of life, if one knows what to expect, the process is smoother.
If you have questions about inherited real estate, contact us. If you have any questions about legal matters (including estate plans, etc.) contact your attorney.
- Administration: Estate administration in Massachusetts, and most other states, follows an intestacy (without a will) track or a testate (with a will) track. More than two-thirds of the estates in Massachusetts are intestate, because only 44% of people have wills, and many others have wills that are outdated and essentially worthless.
- Appointing the Executor: In intestate proceedings, the state makes all important decisions about property distribution, inheritance, and all other related matters. Many times, these decisions are in line with individual choices, and many times, they are not. The executor can be an individual or company, and the executor’s main jobs are to initiate the probate process, publish the required notices, manage the estate during probate, and make payments to heirs in accordance with the will. Did you know? A female executor is an Executrix.
- Inventory: The inventory is a comprehensive declaration of all real and personal property of the estate, as well as each item’s estimated value. These documents usually form the basis for any federal or state income tax returns, so it’s important that executors complete these inventories as soon as possible. Obviously, they are easier to do if much of the estate is part of a trust and not technically part of the decedent’s estate.
- Disbursement: This is the legal term for doling out money. Sometimes it goes to the heirs, sometimes it goes to the state, and sometimes it goes to creditors. If the estate is in probate for quite some time, and it will be if the heirs disagree, the executor will probably have to file more than one tax return, which means the state probably gets more money. Otherwise, the executor gives money to beneficiaries if it is available, pays creditors if needed, and files lawsuits or takes other action if there are accounts receivable.
- Final Accounting: In addition to a final report, the executor must also file periodic reports, so the probate judge knows where the money is going (or not going).
If real estate is part of the inherited property, contact us to help you decide what to do with it in the most dignified and efficient manner.