Probate and Estate Settlement

Probate and Estate Administration

How We Help Our Clients

Estates come in many levels of complexity and sizes.  Click below to learn more about how we help our clients with various types of estates.

1. The Simple Estate

A simple estate typically includes a small estate in which most of the assets transfer automatically to a spouse or family members through joint ownership or account beneficiary designation. Because of the size of the estate, there is no estate tax return, and because there is nothing unusual, an “informal petition” can be filed, relatively straight-forward process with the courts.

A simple estate could also include a large estate for which the deceased did excellent estate planning, and therefore assets are organized, probate avoided, and the administration straight-forward.

For simple estates we help our clients by 

  • completing the court paperwork, including the petition, the inventory and final account,
  • advising them on the transfer of “non-probate assets” (such as life insurance and retirement accounts which pass outside the probate process) to ensure these are properly transferred to the proper beneficiaries, and
  • guiding them through the process.
2. The "Typical" Estate

While no two estates ever seem to be the same, there are common characteristics of what we might call a “typical estate.”  These estate may involve several assets passing through the probate process, beneficiaries who are not easily identified or located, an estate above the $1M Massachusetts “death tax” threshold and requiring a Massachusetts estate tax return, personal representatives who strengths do not include organization and good communication, estates that require immediate sale of real estate, and estates on which a lien has been placed by a creditor, including MassHealth. While each of these issues is not necessarily difficult to resolve, each requires attention and specific procedures to settle.

For these estates we help our clients by:

  • completing the probate paperwork (if needed), including the petition which may need to be filed “formally”, the inventory and final account
  • filing the estate tax return, which may include obtaining proper appraisals for estate property
  • advising our clients on the transfer of “non-probate assets”, to ensure they are properly transferred to the proper beneficiaries
  • preparing paperwork for proper trust funding, and
  • guiding our clients through the process, which has more issues than a simple estate, and perhaps a few thorny ones.
3. The Complex Estate

Some estates are complex to settle. This may because of the sheer size of the estate, including the requirement to file a Massachusetts and Federal estate tax return. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the estate’s size, but instead the number of accounts, assets and liabilities. Even a modest estate can be complex because it is in disarray and little, if any, planning was done before the deceased passed away.

For some estates, complexity is created because of disagreements or even serious conflict among beneficiaries. Other estates are complex because they include business interests, or perhaps a vacation home, to be transferred or divided among new owners. There can also be disputes among beneficiaries regarding the value of various assets, including personal possessions, that can add complexity to the estate’s settlement.

For complex estates we will:

  • complete the probate paperwork (if needed), including the petition which may need to be filed “formally”, the inventory and final account
  • file the estate tax return(s), which may include obtaining proper real estate and business appraisals
  • advise the PR on the transfer of “non-probate assets” to ensure these assets are transferred to the proper beneficiaries
  • prepare paperwork to fund trusts
  • provide support in communicating with estate beneficiaries and, if needed, support a mediation or conflict resolution process, and
  • guide the PR through the process to final resolution.
Susan Traganos

Questions?

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Estate Admin Questionnaire

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