The primary purpose of the probate courts is to help handle the needs of aging adults or adults with disabilities and the transfer of property from someone who died to their heirs and beneficiaries.
Massachusetts probate courts often oversee the administration of an estate. However, many people creating their own estate plans do their best to avoid going through probate court. What are some of the circumstances in which the estate doesn’t have to go through probate court?
There are no assets to transfer at death
Some people have little property by the time they die, and what major assets they do own, they may not own alone. An older adult might jointly hold title to the home where they live with their spouse or a child who serves as a caregiver.
Provided that the title includes rights of survivorship, the property interest held by the deceased party transfers immediately to the other people on the title. The same can occur with financial accounts if there is a transfer on death order specifically for that account.
They transferred their property into a trust
Some people create a trust that funds when they die, meaning their property moves into the trust at the time of their death. Other people use trusts to protect their property as they get older.
Major assets like their home may have been part of the trust for a decade or longer. Assets used to fund a trust typically are not subject to probate oversight unless there are challenges brought by a beneficiary or family member.
Why is probate so common?
Massachusetts requires probate to validate a last will if there are questions of authenticity. Probate proceedings are also necessary if someone dies with any kind of debt or a family member needs the medical records of the person who died. Probate is also important for the management of the tax responsibilities of a deceased individual and the estate itself if the executor has to sell assets.
Although some people shy away from probate, it can be a valuable process that protects an executor’s wishes and legacy. You can plan your estate carefully to reduce the delays and expenses of probate after your death.