Massachusetts finally has an entirely new set of probate laws after twenty years of debate. The Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) was signed into law on January 15, 2009, and is intended to bring significant changes to the probate process and important reforms to probate procedure. The MUPC was supposed to go into effect on January 2, 2012, but has recently been pushed back to March 31, 2012, to allow the legislature to make technical amendments and to help the court system, which is currently understaffed, prepare and make way for the myriad of changes the new Probate Laws will have on the court’s administrative processes and forms.
The MUPC improves the process for administering probate. Probate is the process of gathering a deceased person’s assets, paying all their debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property pursuant to the instructions left in the decedent’s will. The changes would allow for a streamlined probate administration process, saving lawyer’s time and ultimately saving money for the family of the decedent. Additionally, citizens will be able to choose how much judicial oversight they want during probate administration; simple, uncontested estates will be able to complete the process fairly quickly, and even as estates become more complicated, the families can choose the level of control they want to give to the courts.
If you or someone you know is the executor of an estate, or is a named “personal representative” in a will, it is best to seek the assistance of an attorney during this transition period– even the courts need more time to prepare for the switch to the new MUPC.
For more information, the two following Massachusetts Lawyers Journal articles provide a general overview of the changes. Please be advised, they are, unfortunately, written by lawyers, for lawyers.