Informal Probate in Massachusetts: Fast Facts

When it comes to probate in Massachusetts, personal representatives have various pathways to explore based on the circumstances. In this article, we will focus on informal probate in Massachusetts, outlining the steps involved in this process. We will also delve into whether the estate of your deceased family member, their will, and the desires of the heirs align to permit informal probate in Massachusetts. For more information, check out our related articles covering formal probate, late & limited formal probate, and voluntary administration.

What is the Process of Informal Probate in Massachusetts?

informal probate in massachusetts

Informal probate in Massachusetts is a process that takes place outside the courtroom and without judicial oversight. It allows personal representatives (PRs) to handle the probate affairs more independently from the court if the following criteria are met:

  • A valid will and death certificate are present
  • There are no legally incapacitated heirs
  • All minor heirs have guardians representing them
  • The identities and whereabouts of all heirs are known. 

However, if an heir wishes to formally contest something in the will, informal probate is not an option. Informal probate in Massachusetts is only possible if all heirs agree on the division of assets within an estate. Additionally, in some cases, wills may be written to prohibit informal probate.

Is Informal Probate in Massachusetts easier or faster than the other probate types?

In most cases, informal probate in Massachusetts is the easiest pathway to conduct probate in the state mainly because the probate process is free of disputes between heirs and the personal representative is not as accountable to a judicial court for decisions related to settling the estate. 

One other probate pathway that is relatively easy is voluntary administration which can only be conducted if the value of the estate is under $25,0000.

Informal probate in Massachusetts is most often faster than other types of probate and is often completed in a few months. In fact, the PR may not even need to appear in court for hearings when conducting informal probate, and if they do, the hearings tend to go quickly and smoothly.  

Another added benefit of informal probate is that the beneficiaries do not need to pay an attorney to represent them as is the case in other types of probate.

Are There Any Negative Aspects to Informal Probate in Massachusetts?

One downside to informal probate in Massachusetts is that other beneficiaries have the right to stop the informal probate process if they decide to dispute something or disagree with the way the nominated PR is handling their duties. If that’s the case, beneficiaries can pull back their consent of the probate process and essentially end it. At that point, they can file a petition with the court to start the process from scratch with judicial supervision. At that point, the prior work on informal probate is invalidated and the time spent on it wasted.

PRs may also consider avoiding informal probate if the sale of real estate is involved in settling the estate as this large of a transaction may trigger disputes among the beneficiaries.

Can I Easily Sell My Inherited House in Informal Probate?

If you as the PR and your fellow beneficiaries are fully agreed with each other on a plan with the inherited property and other assets, selling the property easily via informal probate is possible. That said, it is often recommended to use the formal probate process when selling an inherited property in case disputes between beneficiaries arise in the middle of the probate process. 

Once you are appointed PR, you may sell the inherited home if you have either been explicitly given the Power of Sale included in the will, or have petitioned the court for a License to Sell provided you have a signed Purchase & Sale Agreement from a home buyer.

How Much Does Informal Probate Cost?

Currently, the filing fee to petition for informal probate in Massachusetts is $390. There are at least 8 forms that need to be submitted along with that filing fee and they can all be found here on the informal probate page on the Massachusetts government website.

In Summary

Informal probate can be the fastest and easiest route to probate your loved one’s estate provided that the beneficiaries are fully aligned on the plan to disperse and sell your loved one’s assets. If this is not the case, or if there’s a chance of disputes between the heirs at some point in the probate process, it’s worth considering the formal probate process which is geared toward effectively managing the competing wishes of the beneficiaries.


We here at Mass Probate Pros are not probate attorneys and the information in this article does not constitute legal advice. Be sure to consult with your probate attorney for additional guidance.

If you would like an offer on your inherited property or just need to understand your options for selling, please give us a call at 617-586-2009 or shoot us on message via our Contact Us page.

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