By: Carah Kiley
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What is Probate 2021
When are the beneficiaries of a will notified, and what is probate?
This is a common question we receive at KLG Estate Planning & Probate Attorneys. The short answer is: once the probate process has begun. However, there are many caveats to that answer and a variety of factors that could affect the length of time the entire probate process takes.
An overview of the probate process
Let’s take a look at the general process of probate so we have a better understanding of those specific factors a beneficiary needs to be aware of as they navigate their roles and responsibilities.
The basic purpose of the probate process is to distribute a decedent’s property and assets after his or her death. The process can take weeks, months, or years (although in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, it must be completed within three years after a person’s date of death). More often than not, the process takes about nine to twelve months.
In Massachusetts, the personal representative begins the probate process by filing the will and asking the court to deem it authentic. That process usually takes a few weeks. Once the will is accepted as authentic, the personal representative can begin probating the estate. This will include sending notices to all beneficiaries that have been named in the will. The probate process could be delayed at this juncture if a beneficiary has died, become disabled, or otherwise can’t be located. If you know you are being named as a beneficiary (for example, for a relative), be sure to keep your contact information up to date.
Understanding your role as a beneficiary
Once you have been named as a beneficiary, you may wish to seek counsel to help you understand what the role entails, what your responsibilities are, and what rights you have. The estate’s personal representative has a fiduciary duty to all of the beneficiaries. This means they must distribute the assets as outlined in the last will and testament. However, that personal representative also has authority to decide how they specifically fulfill that duty. As a beneficiary, you may disagree with their approach and decisions or feel they have misinterpreted the wishes of the decedent.
When you need an expert – we’re here to help
If that happens, our team at KLG Estate Planning & Probate Attorneys would strongly recommend you immediately seek the expertise and guidance of an experienced lawyer in order to ensure your inheritance is protected. We have a deep understanding of the probate process. We’ve dealt with difficult personal representatives before, and we know how to negotiate those waters carefully and with your interest at heart. If you’re struggling to have your voice heard or you’ve hit a brick wall with your requests, we can reach out through the proper channels to further the conversation and, ultimately, complete the probate process.