In Massachusetts, probate is the court supervised process of transferring title over assets from the estate of the deceased to their heirs. Once the new Massachusetts Unified Probate Code goes into effect, currently scheduled for April 1st, clients will only have three years to file probate after their loved one’s death. This may seem like a long time, but the truth is—the faster you get started, the less painful the process usually is.
Typically, when loved ones (most often surviving spouses) have access to cash in joint bank accounts and use of other jointly held estate property after a family member has died, they don’t feel like going through the trouble or cost of hiring an attorney to start the probate process. Surviving spouses remain in the family home, continue to pay property taxes, continue to drive their deceased spouse’s vehicle, and continue to use their joint bank accounts and it all seems painless.
However without going through probate, the spouse or other heirs will be severely limited in what they can do with property owned by the deceased. Real estate cannot be sold, leased, mortgaged, etc. until probate is completed, and vehicles in the estate cannot be sold without clear title. Probate is the way to clear title to property of the estate.
When you wait to start probate you are only delaying the inevitable. The more time that passes prior to filing probate, the more tedious and costly the process can become. This is because records get lost and it’s harder to locate necessary information for probate, and because typically the cash that was on hand immediately following death has long since been spent by the loved ones. The heirs almost always need to pay out of pocket to cover court costs and attorney’s fees which have only gone up since the date of death.
The bottom line is, whenever a loved one dies start probate as quickly as possible. By delaying the probate process for a loved one’s estate, you are only hurting yourself in the long run.
Call the Heritage Law Center to find out how we can help you and your family settle the estate of a loved one.