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Expedited probate in MA (Voluntary Administration)

My mother passed away recently with no will and very few assets. Her house is already in my name and she had a car worth about $3,000 and personal belongings worth about $4,500. Can you explain how I can do an expedited probate in MA. I'm not sure if that's what it's called and also heard someone call it voluntary administration. Thank you.

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Yes, you are talking about a Voluntary Administration, which is in fact an expedited probate process allowed my Massachusetts law.  In cases where there is no will and a probate estate of less than $15,000 in value, this streamlined process allows a relative of the decedent to administer an estate in a fast and efficient manner.  Here are some key requirements.  


1) The value of the probate estate must be less than $15,000 (the value of one car can be excluded from this amount).  (See update, below:  new limit is $25,000 under new MPC).

2) The assets in the estate can only be personal property,not real estate.

3) The applicant must either be the surviving spouse, child, grandchild, sister, brother, parent, niece, nephew, aunt, or uncle of the decedent.

4) The applicant must wait at least thirty days after the death to file the Statement of Voluntary Administration and must also file a certified copy of the death certificate.

5) The decedent must have been an inhabitant of Massachusetts.


Check with your local probate court about filing fees (typically $135). Many of the probate courts have the forms online.  For additional information about the "voluntary informal administration of small estates," check out Massachusetts general laws Chapter 195, Section 16 (Now Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 190B, Section 3-1201 under the recently adopted MA Probate Code).  For more information about estate planning in general, visit our MA Estate Planning Discussion Forum.  

Also, some readers have asked about the disposition of the debts of the estate under a voluntary informal administration.  Here is some relevant language taken from Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 190B, Section 3-1201 re payment of debts:

 A voluntary personal representative shall, as far as possible out of the assets which come into his hands, first discharge the necessary expenses of the funeral and last sickness of the deceased and the necessary expenses of administration without fee for his services, and then pay the debts of the deceased in the order specified in section 3-805 and any other debts of the estate, and then distribute the balance, if any, in accordance with part 1 of article II of this chapter.

For this and other questions dealing with probate in Massachusetts, readers should be aware that Massachusetts has adopted the Uniform Probate Code.  The above question may be answered differently under the new law.  Under the old Massachusetts law, Voluntary Administration was available for any estate with assets under $15,000, plus the value of a vehicle.  The new Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code increases the amount to assets up to $25,000 plus a vehicle. To use this approach, you must, as before, wait 30 days after the date of death to file.

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