A Short Introduction to Massachusetts Probate Courts
Massachusetts probate courts are located at the county seat in every county in Massachusetts, but many state residents are unfamiliar with their workings, an unfortunate situation considering their incredible importance in civil and public life. A citizen will need to go to a Massachusetts probate court to insure that a will is executed properly or to settle a dispute concerning inherited property. Minors and others depending on adult care will need to visit a Massachusetts probate court to get guardianship and conservatorships approved. Other duties include name changes and the handling of medical treatment for adults under guardianship.
Estate Management with Massachusetts Probate Courts
No matter what your particular situation is, anyone trying to deal with the execution of an estate will need to deal with a Massachusetts Probate Court. The process is much easier if a will was written by the deceased individual: a petition will first be filed with the court, and the will is validated fist, with any challengers to it heard in a public forum. An executor of the will is also appointed to carry out the will’s dictates. For estates of less than $15,000, a Voluntary Executor petition may be filed to become the executor.
For cases in which no will is written, the Massachusetts probate court must determine what an appropriate distribution of assets will be. An executor is not appointed, but rather an administrator. Again, for estates of less than $15,000, a Voluntary Administrator petition may be filed. For larger estates, an Administration With/Without Sureties form must be filled and filed with the Massachusetts Probate Court.
Guardianship, Conservatorship & Massachusetts Probate Courts
A Massachusetts probate court cannot appoint a legal foster caregiver or an informer caregiver. Only family courts can do that. However, as part of executing an individual’s will, a Massachusetts probate court may appoint legal guardians and adoptive parents. These are roles meant only to care for minors, but some adults, especially those with mental or physical disablements, may qualify for guardianships of conservatorships as well.
The different between a guardian and a conservator is that a guardian is in charge of a minor or an incapacitated person’s total wellbeing, while a conservator is only in charge of their finances. To file for guardianship, you complete a Guardianship Action 5–303(a) and file it with your local Massachusetts Probate Court, while those filing for conservatorships must file a Conservatorship Action: 5-404(a). Proof of residency must be shown. Some individuals will choose to instead file for a more limited role, such as health care proxy. The form need to become a health care proxy is a 5-303(b)(9).
Fees and Forms
Many different fees and forms are associated with taking action in a Massachusetts probate court. For example, the appointing of an administrator costs $215 after taxes, and even a minor operation such as the changing of a name costs $165.
Any of the forms needed can be located in your local Massachusetts courthouse. Interest individuals can also find most forms online on this government site