«INSTRUCTIONS FOR INFORMAL PROBATE WITH OR WITHOUT A WILL These general instructions are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal ...»
INSTRUCTIONS FOR INFORMAL PROBATE WITH OR WITHOUT A WILL
These general instructions are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Please consult an
attorney if you have specific questions. Court staff cannot provide legal advice or assist you with legal decisions.
Informal probate is an administrative proceeding to probate a will and/or appoint a Personal representative. An administrative proceeding means that you do not have to have a hearing in front of a Probate and Family Court judge.
If the decedent died with a will (testate), an informal petition may be filed to probate the decedent’s will with or without a request for the appointment of a personal representative. An informal petition may also be filed for the informal appointment of a personal representative after the formal or informal probate of a will. If the petitioner is requesting the appointment of a personal representative and the decedent died with a will that has not been probated, the petitioner must also request that the will be probated at that time.
If the decedent died without a will (intestate), an informal petition may be filed to appoint a personal representative.
Informal probate is unavailable if:
the original will is lost, destroyed or otherwise unavailable;
there is no official death certificate;
the location or identity of any heir or devisee is unknown;
the person to be appointed Personal representative does not have priority for appointment by statute or by renunciation and/or nomination;
an heir or devisee is an incapacitated or protected person or a minor and is not represented by a conservator or is only represented by a guardian who is also the petitioner;
the personal representative to be appointed is an interested person solely due to his or her status as a creditor or as a public administrator;
the estate of a since deceased heir or devise is not represented by a personal representative;
supervised administration is necessary;
a judge must sign an order or final decree for any reason.
Note: A determination of heirs and an adjudication of testacy are made only in a formal probate proceeding.
FILING FEES The total fee required to file an informal petition is $390.00. The fee is broken down as follows: $375 for the filing of the informal petition including all required forms/documents and a $15.00 surcharge to assign a docket number. The $390.00 filing fee includes the initial appointment bond, notice forms and the initial court issued Letters of Authority but does not include publication costs.
The following court fees are optional and will only be assessed upon request:
□ Additional Letters of Authority = $25 each □ Copy, attested = $2.50 per page; □ Copy, unattested = $1.00 per page MPC 962 (3/1/16)
COMMON TERMSDocket Number: The number the court assigns to your case.
Petitioner: Interested persons identified by Massachusetts law who can file a petition.
Decedent: The person who died.
Heirs at Law: Persons entitled to receive the decedent’s property under the intestacy succession laws if there is no will.
Devisees: Persons, entities, charitable organizations, or trusts designated in a will to receive the decedent’s personal or real property. In the case of a devise to an existing trust or trustees, or to a trustee or trust established by the will, the trust or trustee is the devisee and the beneficiaries are not devisees.
Probate Estate: All of the real and personal property the decedent owned in his or her name alone on the date of death that is subject to probate.
Interested Persons: Persons identified by Massachusetts law who can file a petition and who also must be notified of the court proceeding. The term may include a surviving spouse, children, heirs at law, devisees, creditors, fiduciaries representing interested persons and persons having priority for appointment as personal representative, depending on the circumstances.
Intestate: An estate in which the decedent did not leave a will.
Testate: An estate in which the decedent did leave a will.
Letters of Authority: A document issued by the court evidencing the personal representative’s authority to act.
Nominee: The person seeking to be appointed personal representative.
Personal representative: A person at least 18 years of age who has been appointed to administer the estate of the decedent.
1) from the registry in each county Probate and Family Court; or
2) from the MUPC Hub located on the Probate and Family Court’s website at http://www.mass.gov/courts/forms/pfc/pfc-mupc-forms-generic.html You may complete a form online and print or you may print the form and type or print legibly in black or blue ink. All required forms must be submitted as a complete packet. A complete packet consists of the following court approved
forms and documents depending on whether the decedent died with a will (testate) or without a will (intestate):
MPC 962 (3/1/16)
STEPS TO FILING YOUR CASE
MPC 962 (3/1/16) Pay careful attention to the caption. Put an “X” next to “Original Form” if this is the first time you are filing this form; put an “X” next to “Amended Form” if you have previously filed this form with the court and are now changing the information. NOTE: An informal petition can only be amended prior to allowance.
ALERT: The petitioner must certify on the petition that the petitioner gave written notice seven (7) days prior to petitioning for informal probate or appointment by sending a copy of the petition and a copy of the death certificate by certified mail to the Division of Medical Assistance, Estate Recovery Unit. As of the time of this publication, the address is P. O. Box 15205, Worcester, MA 01615-0205. The Division of Medical Assistance is NOT the court. For additional notice requirements, see Step 3 below.
□ Surviving Spouse, Children, Heirs at Law (MPC 162) This form must be filed in ALL cases to identify a decedent’s surviving spouse, children and heirs at law.
Complete all applicable sections of this form. For line by line instructions, see the Instructions (MPC 958).
Failure to submit this form will result in a delay in processing your case.
□ Devisees (MPC 163) This form must be filed if the petitioner is seeking to probate the decedent’s will.
Complete all applicable sections of this form. For line by line instructions, see the Instructions (MPC 959).
Failure to submit this form will result in a delay in processing your case.
□ Bond (MPC 801) This form must be filed if the petitioner is requesting the appointment of a personal representative. No bond is necessary if the petitioner is requesting only to probate an original will.
If a bond with sureties is required, the petitioner must state the penal sum in a dollar amount. Failure to state a dollar amount subjects the sureties to unlimited liability.
Complete all applicable sections of this form. This form must be signed by the personal representative.
□ Military Affidavit (MPC 470) This form must be filed UNLESS the written assents and waivers of notice (MPC 455) of all interested persons are filed.
If an heir, devisee or other interested person is in the military service, his or her written assent (MPC 455) to the petition must be filed or an informal proceeding is not available. A formal proceeding however may be commenced.
□ Assent and Waiver of Notice/Renunciation/Nomination/Waiver of Sureties (MPC 455) This form must be filed if the petitioner is requesting the appointment of a personal representative who does NOT have statutory priority for appointment.
This form must be filed if the petitioner is seeking to waive sureties on the bond of a personal representative and any will filed for probate does not expressly waive such sureties.
This form may be filed to assent and waive notice by any interested person.
Complete all applicable sections of this form. For instructions, see the Instructions (MPC 941).
MPC 962 (3/1/16) □ Affidavit as to Cause of Death (MPC 475) This form must be filed if the decedent’s cause of death is listed on the death certificate as “homicide” or “pending”. Other causes of death do not require the Affidavit.
□ Affidavit of Domicile (MPC 485) This form must be filed if the address of the decedent is incorrectly listed on the death certificate.
□ Informal Order (MPC 750) This form must be filed in ALL cases as part of the complete packet.
The petitioner is required to complete all applicable sections in preparation for the magistrate’s signature.
STEP 2: Obtain Other Documents for Filing □ Certified Copy of the Death Certificate A certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate must be filed.
Death certificates can be obtained from the Town Hall where the person was residing at the time of death or from the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. For information, see http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/admin/dmoa/vitals/obtaining-certified-copiesof-vital-records.html.
□ Original Will The original will must be filed if the decedent died with a will and the petitioner is offering the decedent’s last will and any codicil(s) for probate.
ALERT: A formal petition must be filed to probate a copy of a will or a will with cancellations or interlineations.
□ Authenticated Copy of Will and Appointment If a petitioner is offering a nonresident decedent’s last will and any codicil(s) for probate in Massachusetts, an authenticated copy of the will and an authenticated copy of the order, decree or judgment issued by the court where it was first probated must be filed.
□ Proof of Guardianship/Conservatorship If an heir or devisee is an incapacitated or protected person or a minor, the heir or devisee must be represented by a conservator, or a guardian who cannot be the petitioner, and proof of the conservatorship or guardianship must be provided. If the appointment is/was within the division in which the filing is being made, the petitioner shall be required to present proof in the form of a docket number. If not, the petitioner must file a certified copy of Letters of guardianship or conservatorship or other proof of appointment.
ALERT: Minor children of the decedent do not require the appointment of a conservator or guardian UNLESS they are also an heir or devisee.
□ Affidavit of Conservator If the conservator of an incapacitated person, protected person or a minor also has an interest in the decedent’s estate as an heir or devisee, the conservator must file an affidavit stating specific facts to warrant a conclusion MPC 962 (3/1/16) by the magistrate that a conflict of interest does not exist between the conservator and person(s) represented in order to proceed administratively on an informal petition.
Failure to submit an affidavit or to state sufficient facts to support the conclusion that a conflict of interest does not exist may result in a denial by the magistrate.
STEP 3: Provide Pre-Filing Notice Once your informal packet is complete, you must provide notice to interested persons at least 7 days prior to filing your complete packet with the court.
□ Notice of Informal Probate (MPC 550) Complete all applicable sections of this form.
At least seven (7) days prior to petitioning, the petitioner must provide a copy of MPC 550 either by in-hand delivery or first-class ordinary mail to the following interested persons (unless they have assented and waived
their right to notice by completing form MPC 455):
1) all heirs and devisees, including any devisee that is a charity;
2) any person having a higher or equal right to appointment not waived in writing and filed with the division;
3) any personal representative of the decedent whose appointment has not been terminated;
4) the Attorney General of Massachusetts, if there is no spouse or heir of the decedent or if any devisee is a charity;
5) a conservator or guardian appointed to represent an heir or devisee who is a minor, incapacitated or protected person and the person represented regardless of age; AND
6) any other person as the petitioner elects.
ALERT: If it appears that an heir or devisee is a minor, incapacitated or protected person, the petitioner shall give notice to that person and that person’s guardian or conservator. Notice to the parent(s) of an heir or devisee who is a minor is not adequate notice. A parent, however, may petition to be the minor child’s guardian or conservator. If an heir or devisee is a minor or incapacitated person and is not represented by a conservator or is only represented by a guardian who is the petitioner, an informal proceeding is not available. A formal proceeding may be filed.
If the address of any interested person or the identity of any heir is unknown, an informal proceeding is not available and a formal petition must be filed.
ALERT: If an heir or devisee of the decedent’s estate is since deceased (i.e. died after the death of the decedent), a personal representative must be appointed to represent that estate in order to proceed informally. Notice of the informal proceeding must be provided to the appointed personal representative. If no personal representative is appointed to represent the since deceased’s estate, a formal proceeding must be filed.