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Options for Closing an Estate in Massachusetts

If a person dies with assets in his or her own name, then the family needs to go through probate so that title to the assets can be properly transferred to the rightful heirs. But once the probate is opened, the personal representative needs to determine how to properly close down the estate when there is nothing left to do. Below are 4 options for closing down an estate in Massachusetts.

Option 1 – Not filing Anything
If the Personal Representative does not file anything with the court, then the estate is not settled, the Personal Representative’s authority is not terminated and the Personal Representative is not discharged from his fiduciary duty.

Option 2 – Filing a Small Estate Closing Statement
The only time this option is available is if “the value of the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed family allowances, exempt property, costs and expenses of administration, reasonable funeral expenses, and reasonable and necessary medical and hospital expenses of the last illness of the decedent”. Under this option, the estate will be settled and the Personal Representative’s authority will be terminated, provided that no actions or proceedings involving the Personal Representative are pending in the court. Furthermore, the Closing Statement may be challenged up to 1 year by filing a Petition for Complete Settlement. Thereafter, the Closing Statement may only be challenged for fraud or manifest error. The Personal Representative is not discharged from his fiduciary duty.

Option 3 – Filing a Closing Statement
Under this option, the estate is settled. The Closing Statement may be challenged up to 1 year by filing a Petition for Complete Settlement. Thereafter, the Closing Statement may only be challenged for fraud or manifest error. The Personal Representative is not discharged from his fiduciary duty.

Option 4 – Petition for Complete Settlement of Estate
This option is recommended for most estates because it offers the Personal Representative the greatest protection allowed. Under this option, the estate is settled, it cannot be challenged except for fraud or manifest error, and the Personal Representative is discharged from issues determined in the Order of Complete Settlement.

 

 

About the Author

Peter Moustakis
Peter Moustakis is the Managing Member of Sowerby & Moustakis, PLLC with locations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Peter has received an award related to estate planning, contributed to 2 family law publications and authored the book “Estate Planning and the Modern Family: Old School Meets New School. He is a former President, Vice-President, Secretary Treasurer and Education Coordinator of Business Networking International Commerce Connection in Wayland, MA. He is also the former vice chair of the animal law committee at the Massachusetts Bar Association and served on the New Hampshire Bar Association Ethics Committee. Peter believes that community service is important and has served on the Amherst town Ways and Means Committee for 4 years and was chair of the committee for 2 years.