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Powers of Executor or personal representative of estates in Massachusetts

I'm listed as the executor in both of my parents' wills (or is it now known as the personal representative?). My father recently passed away. He was sick for a while and before he died, I had done some research on what I can and cannot do as the personal representative of an estate in Massachusetts. The estate is a bit complex. Can you tell me if there are any additional powers under the new probate code and what they are? Anything I should be aware of. Thanks.

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First, you are correct:  The new MA probate code uses the term Personal Representative ("PR").  You are also correct in your belief that the new code expands the power of the PR.  The code spells out many of these powers in M.G.L. Chapter 190B, Section 3-715.  Reference must be made to the will or trust, however, as Section 3-715 states that these powers may be restricted "by the will or by an order in a formal proceeding."   Other powers are contained in existing law, such as the statutory powers of fiduciaries contained in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 184B, Section 2.  Section 3-715 specifically mentions the power to:  (1)  retain assets owned by the decedent pending distribution or liquidation; (2) receive assets from fiduciaries and other sources; (3) perform or refuse to perform contracts entered by the decedent; and (4) satisfy written charitable obligations entered into by the decedent, even if not binding on the estate, in cases where the PR believes the decedent would have wished to satisfy the obligation. ( These powers are known as “Statutory Optional Fiduciary Powers” and may be given to the fiduciary in a will or trust by specific reference thereto in said will or trust.) You should look at Section 3-715, because there are around 23 additional powers spelled out there.

Additionally, other powers are scattered throughout the new probate code, including: (1) the power to compromise claims against the estate (M.G.L. c. 190B, § 3-813); (2) the power to distribute assets in kind (M.G.L. c. 190B, § 3-906); and (3) the power to hire appraisers to valuate estate assets(M.G.L. c. 190B, § 3-707).

Keep in mind, however, that the powers of a Personal Representative can be limited by the will itself or by a court order arising out of a formal proceeding.  One last thought: if the estate is complex, you may want to hire an attorney to help you probate the estate.  Good luck.

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