Do All Wills Need to Be Probated in Massachusetts?

By Anna Assad

Probate in Massachusetts is a legal proceeding used to validate a will, appoint an executor to oversee the estate and settle the deceased person's financial affairs. A will may not have to be probated in Massachusetts under certain circumstances, as defined throughout Title II of the General Laws of Massachusetts.

If Property is Exempt

Some types of property are exempt from probate under Massachusetts law, per the Massachusetts Bar Association. An estate that consists of only exempt property may not need to be probated even if a will is located. Money from a deceased person's life insurance can go to the beneficiary named in the policy and is not included in probate. Any property the deceased person owned as a joint tenant with another person, like his spouse, automatically passes to the surviving joint tenant. A retirement plan is paid to the designated recipient and excluded from probate.

If the Will is Invalid

A will must be executed in accordance with Massachusetts laws to be admitted for probate. The will must be signed by the deceased person, or testator, and at least two mentally competent witnesses. A person may sign the will for the deceased person, but only at his direct request and in his presence, per Chapter 191(1) of the General Laws of Massachusetts. The person making the will had to be of sound mind at the time of execution, and the will must contain clear provisions for the disposal of his property.

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Estate Left to Former Spouse

A will that leaves the entire estate of the deceased person to a former spouse may not be probated unless the will reflects the parties are divorced or the marriage was annulled. Section 2-802 of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code provides that if a person is legally divorced or the marriage was annulled at the time of her death, her former husband is not her surviving spouse. A legal separation is not considered a divorce for probate purposes.

Actions of a Beneficiary

Certain actions by an heir or beneficiary under a will may revoke the provisions or the document in its entirely. A will that leaves all assets to a person who murdered the testator is not probated, per Section 2-803 of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, because the beneficiary cannot inherit assets or act as the executor of the estate.

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Are Life Insurance Benefits Subject to Probate in California?

Probate is the legal process for administering and distributing the estate of a deceased individual. Typically, life insurance proceeds are not subject to probate in California or in any state. Life insurance policies, as well as retirement benefit accounts, have beneficiary designations to determine their distribution. However, there are exceptions that require life insurance proceeds to be probated.

Probate Vs. Non-Probate Assets in Ohio

In Ohio, as in other states, certain assets are classified as probate or non-probate property. Non-probate assets are said to pass outside of probate; this means they automatically pass to a joint owner or beneficiary without going through probate administration. Probate assets are subject to probate administration, regardless of whether the deceased, known as the decedent, left a will, known as dying "testate," or didn't leave a will, known as dying "intestate."

Intestacy Rules in Colorado

Colorado's intestacy rules are similar to the rules found in other states but don't provide for inheritances by remote relatives, such as distant cousins. Colorado's laws allow inheritances by a birth parent who adopted out the deceased person or any birth children the deceased person put up for adoption, but only to prevent the estate from going to Colorado because of a lack of heirs. State laws set the inheritance rules for the estate of a person who died intestate; however, these rules don't take the financial needs of his heirs into consideration.

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