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Must We Publish a Death Notice Regarding our Family Member?

My mother passed away a few days ago. My dad says Massachusetts law requires us to post a legal notice in the newspaper advising of her passing in the event there is anyone who wishes to contest her will. Does anyone know the requirements for this in the State of MA, if in fact, it is a requirement? -- (Posted by JJF on the Forum)


(Attorney Jessica Deland posted the following reply on the Forum Chat Room.) First, let me express my sincere condolences on the death of your mother. The death of a parent is a passage that most people come to in their lives, but it is not easy for any one. It is the custom in Massachusetts, but not the law, to submit a brief obituary to an appropriate newspaper. The purpose of this is really social rather than legal - to let people who might not otherwise realize she had passed know what has happened. Such a notice usually includes information about funeral or memorial arrangements. Let me suggest that if you have not done this, you do it. Call the newspaper and ask for the obituaries desk and they will be able to guide you through it. The death itself is a public fact, recorded in the death certificate which is sent by the medical examiner to the Bureau of Vital Statistics.


Legally, you will want to think about probating her will, or starting a process of intestacy if there is no will. This involves filing a petition with the Probate and Family Court. If all her heirs at law (her surviving spouse and children) sign the petition, there will be no need to publish what is called a "Citation" in the newspaper. If there is anyone who refuses to sign or can't be found, however, the Court will require you to publish a citation, which the Court will supply. The Court will provide the form of the citation and tell you when and where to publish it. Similarly, if the executor or administrator (which will probably be you or your dad), is not able to get everyone to sign off on his inventory or accounting, the publication process will be required again. As you can tell, the process of transferring property at death, called "probate," is rather complex. Most people hire an attorney to handle it. It is possible to do it yourself, but not really recommended.


For more information or to post a question, visit our Massachusetts Estate Planning Discussion Forum.

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