Small Estate? No Problem

“Probate” is a word that instills dread in many people; thoughts of months spent waiting while the case drags through the court system.  Happily, that is no longer true for most cases and particularly for small estates.

Voluntary Administration is available for those estates of Massachusetts residents which consist of personal property only (no real estate) valued at $25,000 and under, excluding an automobile. A Voluntary Administration proceeding can be initiated whether or not the decedent had a will, but cannot be filed earlier than thirty days after the date of death. If a prior probate petition has been filed, then the court will not accept a Voluntary Administration.

A Voluntary Administration can be helpful in situations where the decedent left small bank accounts or other minor financial accounts held in his or her sole name. No one will be able to access these accounts without court authority and for a small amount of funds, the time and expense of a formal or informal probate proceeding can be a burden.

To begin, the Petitioner must prepare a Voluntary Administration Statement and gather a certified copy of the death certificate and the original will (if any). The Petitioner can be an adult family member of the decedent, the nominated Personal Representative in the will or beneficiary of the estate, but does not need to be a Massachusetts resident. After the paperwork is completed but before it is filed, the Petitioner must mail a copy of the Voluntary Administration Statement and death certificate to the Estate Recovery Unit of the Massachusetts Division of Medical Assistance for notification purposes. Once that is done, the documents may be filed in the Probate and Family Court in the county where the decedent last resided along with the $115 filing fee and the Petitioner will promptly be authorized as the person to settle the decedent’s estate.

Note that this will not result in a court appointment as Personal Representative of the decedent’s estate, but will quickly allow the Petitioner to access the limited amount of assets that exist to pay bills of the estate and to distribute the remainder to the beneficiaries per the terms of the will or to the decedent’s heirs, if no will exists.

For more information on Voluntary Administration, or to schedule a consultation with our experienced estate planning attorneys, please call Levine-Piro Law, P.C. at 978-637-2048 or email us at office@levinepirolaw.com.