One of the very unfortunate realities of COVID is that people are dying unexpectedly, either with or without a will. The question then falls to the loved ones as to whether they have to probate the estate or not, and secondarily, what kind of probate they need. A third question is whether they need to hire an attorney.
The short answer to the first question is, usually. Most estates have assets that require probate administration. Some decedents may have created trusts prior to death and retitled ALL of their assets to flow through the trust, thus negating the need for probate administration. But more often, estates have some assets that fall “outside” of the trust, and those, if they don’t go to a beneficiary automatically by operation of law, must be probated.
They type of probate depends on the size and contents of the estate. In Massachusetts, for estates with no real estate and less than $25,000 worth of assets (excluding one car), a voluntary administration is the easiest and least expensive way to go. It can be filed 30 days after death. In New Hampshire, the simplest process is called a Waiver of Administration. An estate can qualify for this when the executor is the sole heir of the estate.
Most estates, however, will have to go through a more complex probate administration. Massachusetts has two options: informal and formal. An informal probate does not require a final decree from the probate court and is a quicker process. For estates with more complex factors, such a missing will, heir, or death certificate, for example, a formal probate will be required. New Hampshire has only one other option: regular administration.
Whether to consult or hire an attorney is up to the loved ones who are doing the probate. All forms are online and can be completed by either the attorney or the person petitioning to be the personal representative (Massachusetts) or executor (New Hampshire). Some forms have accompanying instructions to help the PR and executor, but knowing which forms to file and when can be a little more challenging. And in light of COVID, courts are now accepting them only by mail or online, but the online process can be difficult to navigate. If you have any questions about probate, contact us.
Back to School??
As districts wrestle with whether to open fully in person, fully remote, or a combination (called “hybrid”), many parents are struggling with which option to choose (for those that have a choice). This is even more agonizing for parents of children with special or high needs. One question that has arisen frequently and recently is whether a student who chooses fully remote can still receive special education and related services in person. The answer is yes. In fact, Massachusetts is highly recommending that services be delivered in person whenever feasible, and especially so for those students with the highest needs. (New Hampshire has yet to issue guidance on this.) If parents do not feel comfortable bringing their child to school, they can work with their school to find a different location. The Commonwealth is basically asking both districts and parents to be reasonable and flexible about the delivery of services but has made it clear that the IEP is still to be followed, no matter what the school year looks like. Any IEP that expired during COVID is still to be followed until the team meets to update it.
The Commonwealth has also issued guidance on evaluations, meetings, and compensatory services. You can find more at http://www.doe.mass.edu/covid19/sped.html.