As an 'estate planning attorney near me' I hear from many people their aim for MA estate planning is to 'avoid probate.' I'm not sure this should be the sole reason for doing an estate plan.
It may be ONE of several reasons, though. Probate is the process in which after a person has died the state's court system gets involved.
If you have a will, some people mistakenly think this will actually avoid probate. This is not correct.
Actually, a will does not legally become a will until the court system of the state in which the person died approves the will. The word probate means 'to prove' a will.
Probate of a will includes several different steps. The first step is to find the original will if one exists. If there is no will, then the process is sometimes called 'administration of the estate.'
Many people die without a will having been signed. This does not mean there is no probate. Their assets too must go to others - and probate court is involved.
We use the term 'probate court' in Massachusetts. Other states use a different term. It depends on what words the state legislature used when they passed the statute (law) that created the court in their own state.
Probate includes signing a Petition to Probate and handing that over to the probate court. Each county in Massachusetts has its own probate court.
Along with the Petition to Probate, the original will is handed over to the court. Along with a filing fee of over $100. Along with the heirs at law approving the will - so the court doesn't need to have the will's witnesses appear in court.
If the heirs at law do not approve the will in writing, they can fight the will. This is called a will contest.
The heirs at law are the deceased's closest relatives. Each state has a law that specifies whom are the closest relatives. Spouse, children, parents, siblings are the most common types of people whom are the heirs at law.