If you are involved in the probate of an estate, or you anticipate being so in the near future, you may find yourself in need of reliable, trustworthy community resources in the North Andover, Massachusetts area. Because we understand how frustrating it can be trying to locate those resources, we have put some together for you. The following community resources can help you find much needed services, advice, and support.
Law Enforcement Resources
In the event that you need a copy of a police report, or you need to contact local law enforcement for any reason, it is always a good idea to have contact information handy. For information or reports relating to anything that occurred within the North Andover city limits you want to contact the North Andover Police Department. The Essex County Sheriff’s Department retains jurisdiction for anything that occurs outside of the city limits.
Court Related Resources
The probate of an estate is generally required following a death for several reasons. Probate ensures that the decedent’s property is identified, located, and valued and eventually transferred to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate. Probate also allows creditors of the estate to file claims against the estate and ensures that all taxes owed by the estate are paid. The individual who oversees the probate process is either the “Executor” who was appointed in the Decedent’s Last Will and Testament or the “Personal Representative” who volunteered for the position if the decedent died intestate (without a Will). If the decedent lived in North Andover, the estate would be probated in the Essex County Probate and Family Court. The court’s website provides commonly needed information such as the court address and telephone number. Most Executor’s/Personal Representative’s retain the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney to help with the probate process, particularly if the estate requires formal probate.
If, however, you wish to proceed without an attorney, the court offers several resources you may wish to use. The Self-Help Center offers a section on “Wills and Estates” that explains the purpose of probate and provides and overview of the probate process. The court also offers self-represented litigants a section on “Representing Yourself in a Civil Case: Things to Consider When Going to Court.” It is wise to look over the information found in this section so that you know what to expect when you are in court. You will also find a “Court Forms” section where you can search for forms you may need to file with the court.
General Probate Resources
If you have never been involved in the probate of an estate before, you may have questions about the process itself. One excellent resource is the American Bar Association’s (ABA) “Frequently Asked Questions – The Probate Process.” One of the most important decisions you will need to make early on in the process is whether or not to retain the services of an attorney to assist you. There is no requirement that you retain counsel. You may proceed “pro se,” or without an attorney representing you and the estate; however, the court will expect you to understand all of the applicable laws and court rules despite the fact that you are not an attorney. Probating a small estate without the help of an attorney may not be difficult; however, a moderate to large estate can be challenging to probate without an attorney and doing so could lead to costly mistakes. If you decide to consult with an attorney, one excellent resource for locating an experienced estate planning attorney in your area is the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, AAEPA. The AAEPA is a national association of attorneys who have chosen to focus their practice on legal matters relating to wills, trusts, and estates. Another source for locating an attorney in your area is the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service.
Funerals, Documents, Notices, and Taxes – the Practical Aspect of Probating an Estate
One of the first responsibilities that often falls to an Executor is making funeral and burial arrangements for the decedent if the decedent did not leave behind a funeral plan. Conte Funeral Home, John Breen Memorial Funeral Home, and Burke-Magliozzi Funeral Home are all located in the North Andover area and offer a full range of funeral and burial services.
Another practical task that falls on the Executor of the estate is to obtain a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate which may be requested from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services . Once probate is underway, you may also need to locate property records to ensure that you have included all of the decedent’s assets in the inventory of the estate. The Southern Essex District Registry of Deeds may be a useful resource for researching property records. You will also need to publish a notice of probate with a local newspaper to ensure that all unknown creditors of the estate are notified that probate is underway. The Eagle Tribune Newspaper has a legal notices section that will allow you to accomplish this task.
All estates are potentially subject to federal gift and estate taxes. In addition, an estate probated in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is also subject to Massachusetts estate taxes. Any federal and/or state tax obligation must be paid before estate assets are transferred out of the estate to beneficiaries or heirs of the estate. For a general overview of the federal gift and estate tax, try reading the “Estate Tax” explanation found on the Internal Revenue Service’s website. You may also find the answers to specific questions regarding the federal tax on the IRS’s “Frequently Asked Questions on Estate Taxes” section. The state level counterpart can be found in the Massachusetts Department of Revenue’s “A Guide to Estate Taxes.”
Contact Us To Get Started
If you have additional questions about probate matters, contact the experienced Massachusetts estate planning attorneys at Debruyckere Law Offices by calling (978) 686-4645 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.