Are Massachusetts Wills Public Record?

By Maggie Lourdes

In Massachusetts, you can choose to file your will for safekeeping in your local county probate court. During your lifetime, you are the only person who can access the will from the court's files, but you can name a person to retrieve it upon your death. When you die, if no one claims your will from the court's files, the probate court opens it up to the public following publication of your death.

Public Access

If you leave a will when you die, a petition for probate is filed in the probate court by your personal representative, or executor. The probate process is necessary so the executor can distribute your property to your heirs. Once probate is opened, your will becomes part of the court's records. Massachusetts law allows any person to review and obtain copies of court documents, including wills that have been submitted for probate.

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How Can You Check on a Probate Claim in Massachusetts?

Once a will is filed in Massachusetts and a probate is opened, all documents filed within the proceeding are public record. Anyone can check on a probate claim in Massachusetts at any point in its progress. You may need to check on a probate claim if you are a creditor and you need to know when to expect payment of the claim from the estate. You may also need to check on a claim of heirship if you are asserting that you are an heir of the deceased who should participate in the final distribution of estate assets.

How to Probate a Will in Maine

Maine offers two types of probate filings: informal and formal. You may file for informal probate if there is nothing in dispute such as the will's validity; informal probate doesn't involve a judge or hearings before the probate court. Formal probate is reserved for disputed cases and involves a judge and hearings. In most cases, informal probate will suffice. If for some reason, formal probate becomes necessary, it can commence after informal probate.

How to Find Out If You Are a Beneficiary in a Final Will When a Relative Dies

During a person's lifetime, her will is private; she determines who views the document. After she dies, the will becomes public. The executor files the document with the probate court and notifies all beneficiaries. At that point, anyone may inspect the will. To determine whether you are a beneficiary in a family member's will, review the will at the courthouse or contact the executor.

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