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Not all assets held by a Decedent require Court administration (known as "probate").  Specifically, assets held by trust, those which name a beneficiary, and any jointly-held assets all entirely avoid Court procedures and instead pass by "operation of law" (i.e., as directed during lifetime).  If there are assets outside of these avoidance structures, only those assets pass via the probate process.  For example, homes, automobiles, and bank accounts are all common probate assets, while retirement accounts and life insurance policies frequently by-pass probate via their beneficiary designations.  Once/if the need for probate is identified, then there are four avenues for filing probate in Massachusetts:

Voluntary - a quick and simple process available when the probate assets do not exceed $25,000 in aggregate value;

Informal - utilized when there are no complicated family issues and no real estate among the probate assets;

Formal - to handle real estate within the probate assets as well as complicated scenarios; and

Ancillary - when the Decedent was domiciled outside Massachusetts but had real estate in the Commonwealth that requires probate.

Our attorneys will review all of the above and any other concerns during your initial consultation.

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