In 2012, Massachusetts adopted the Uniform Probate Code.  This new code changed the way the Commonwealth probates estates.  The process has been changed to allow more leeway based on the complexity of the estate.  Estates with smaller proceeds may be able to probate through the “Informal” process by which the Court has minimal supervision.  Estates with more substantial assets may need to proceed through the “Formal” probate process.

The complexity of an Estate depends on many factors such as the value of the assets of personal property involved, whether there is real property to be distributed, the number of potential heirs, whether or not there is a valid will, and whether or not the distribution of the estate may be contested.  This list, however, is not an all-inclusive list of potential factors to consider.

The Informal Probate process allows minimal oversight by the Courts and is less costly to the Estate.  Estates with or without valid wills may file for informal probate.  In addition, it is advisable to have an agreed upon Personal Representative (formerly “Executor/trix”).  The Personal Representative is the person who will ensure the proceeds from the estate are distributed per the wishes of the decedent.  If there is no will or the decedent died “Intestate”, a Personal Representative needs to be appointed to ensure the distributions occur per the laws regarding distribution.  There are instances; however, where the informal process may not be used.  Such instances include but are not limited to: unknown heirs, minors as heirs, an original will cannot be produced, or there is not available death certificate.

The Formal Probate process becomes necessary when there are issues such as the ones listed above, as well as when there are contested issues […]