Probate courts are specialty courts that oversee elder law and estate proceedings. When someone dies, the property and debt in their name become their estate. Often, Massachusetts estates have to pass through probate court for administration. Probate proceedings can take months and diminish how much people inherit from the estate.
Some people go to great lengths in an attempt to avoid probate court when planning their estates. They make aggressive changes just so that their property won’t go through the courts when they die. If you hate the idea of your property passing through court, you may need to plan carefully now.
When is probate court necessary for someone living in Massachusetts?
What you leave behind determines your obligations
Some people die without any property, while others have a lifetime worth of savings, a home and a business to pass to their loved ones. Many people will need to have their property pass through probate unless they plan carefully to avoid it.
Only those with limited property to their names when they die can bypass probate proceedings. Those with very little property in their estate can qualify for voluntary administration outside of probate court. However, only a few people qualify, as the total value of the estate must be less than $25,00, and there can’t be any real estate. Slightly larger estates that include motor vehicles may also qualify.
Any estate worth more than $25,000 or with even unimproved real estate included will need to go through probate proceedings.
How can you avoid probate?
There are plenty of options for avoiding probate. The simplest way is to minimize what assets you have in your name at the time of your death.
Some people execute deeds and establish transfer on death designations for their financial accounts so that their assets don’t need to go through probate court. Others move their most valuable property into a trust, which can achieve the same goal while also protecting that property from creditor claims in their golden years.
When you understand the rules that apply to estate planning and probate in Massachusetts, you will be in a better position to create an estate plan that really achieves your goals.