Estate administration is the process of administering an estate after someone has passed away,  whether or not they had a will. When a person dies with a will in place, the process involves executing the provisions of the will through probate. When a person passes away without a will (intestate), the estate administration process involves distributing the deceased person’s assets according to state laws governing intestacy.

At LaFountain & Wollman, P.C., we understand the challenges of estate administration in Massachusetts and are here to guide you through the process with dignity and compassion. When you work with us, you will have comfort in knowing that your loved one’s estate is in capable hands. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.

Navigating Estate Administration in Massachusetts

Our firm can help you navigate the estate administration process efficiently, ensuring that the wishes of the deceased are carried out and the interests of heirs or beneficiaries are protected. Here’s an overview of key aspects of estate administration:

  • Filing the necessary documents – The appointed Personal Representative (f/k/a Executor/trix) must file the required documents with the appropriate probate court including a petition to open the estate, identifying the Personal Representative, and providing information about the deceased person’s assets and liabilities.
  • Inventorying and appraising assets and liabilities –  One of the initial tasks in estate administration is to compile a comprehensive inventory of the deceased person’s assets. This includes real estate, bank accounts, investments, personal property, and more. Assets must be valued accurately to determine the estate’s overall value.
  • Addressing debts and obligations – Part of the Personal Representative’s role is to identify and address any outstanding debts or liabilities left by the deceased. This may include paying off creditors, resolving outstanding bills, and handling any taxes owed.
  • Distributing estate assets – Once debts, taxes, and other obligations are settled, the remaining estate assets are distributed to heirs or beneficiaries according to state laws governing intestacy or, if applicable, the provisions of a will.

Our experienced estate administration attorneys will work diligently to ensure a smooth and efficient process, allowing you to focus on honoring your loved one’s legacy.

Probate vs. Non-Probate Assets in Estate Administration

Understanding the distinction between probate and non-probate assets is crucial in the estate administration process. Properly identifying and managing these assets can significantly impact the efficiency and complexity of administering an estate. 

What Are Non-Probate Assets?

Non-probate assets are those that bypass the probate process and are directly transferred to beneficiaries or co-owners upon the decedent’s passing. Common examples of non-probate assets include:

  • Life insurance policies with named beneficiaries
  • Retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries
  • Payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts
  • Assets held in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship

How Non-Probate Assets Pass

Non-probate assets typically pass outside of the probate process, meaning they are not subject to court oversight. Instead, they pass directly to the named beneficiaries or co-owners. This streamlined transfer can help beneficiaries access their inheritances more quickly, avoiding delays associated with probate proceedings. Properly managing both probate and non-probate assets is essential for a comprehensive estate administration strategy. 

At LaFountain & Wollman, our experienced estate administration attorneys can assist you in identifying and navigating the complexities of these assets, ensuring a smooth and efficient process. We work diligently to help you make informed decisions that align with your specific goals and needs, safeguarding your loved one’s legacy with care and precision.

Handling Estate Disputes

Estate disputes can arise when someone passes away without a valid will, often centered around issues related to the distribution of assets, especially when there is uncertainty about who should inherit and how much they should receive. Some of the typical estate disputes our firm has seen include:

  • Heirship disputes – Family members or interested parties may challenge the legitimacy of certain heirs, leading to disputes over the inheritance. Resolving heirship disputes typically involves providing evidence of familial relationships, such as birth certificates and DNA testing when necessary.
  • Asset distribution disputes – Disagreements among the beneficiaries over the fair division of property, personal belongings, and financial assets may be resolved through mediation or estate litigation.
  • Creditor claims – When a person passes away intestate, creditors may come forward with claims against the estate. Disputes can arise if there is uncertainty about the validity or priority of these claims. Personal Representatives must carefully review and address creditor claims to ensure that the estate’s assets are distributed appropriately.
  • Challenges to administrator actions – Heirs or beneficiaries may contest the actions taken by the Personal Representative, such as the sale of assets or the handling of debts. These disputes often involve allegations of mismanagement or breach of fiduciary duty by the Personal Representative. 

At LaFountain & Wollman, our approach to resolving estate disputes is thoughtful and strategic. We have a proven track record of assisting clients in resolving disputes effectively, honoring the decedent’s wishes, and protecting the interests of all parties involved.

How Our Firm Can Help

At LaFountain & Wollman, our experienced estate administration attorneys bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. We will work tirelessly to guide you through each step of the process, from identifying and valuing assets to addressing outstanding debts and liabilities.

When you partner with us, you can be confident that your loved one’s estate will be handled professionally and efficiently. We are committed to delivering compassionate and personalized service, providing you with the peace of mind you deserve during this challenging time. Let us be your advocates in ensuring a fair and equitable estate administration that honors your loved one’s wishes.

Contact An Experienced Estate Administration Attorney Today

If you need assistance or have questions about administering a loved one’s estate, turn to LaFountain & Wollman. We have an impeccable reputation for adhering to the highest ethical and professional standards. Contact us today to learn how we can help.

Helping clients in Middlesex County, Norfolk County, Suffolk County, and Essex County.