Massachusetts Last Will and Testament

Massachusetts Last Will and Testament

Last updated September 11th, 2023

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Massachusetts last will and testament details how an individual wishes for their estate to be distributed after their passing. It names the estate’s beneficiaries and designates a personal representative tasked with filing forms and handling the estate’s property. Having a will helps an estate’s assets be distributed more efficiently, making the probate process easier for the testator’s loved ones.

A will can only be drafted by someone 18 years or older who is of sound mind.[1]

Probate Process in Massachusetts (7 steps)

Generally speaking, probating an estate must occur within three years of the testator’s death.[4] In Massachusetts, most proceedings are “informal” rather than “formal,” meaning the court is less involved throughout the process. The guide below covers informal proceedings only.

  1. Notice of Petition
  2. File Documents
  3. Provide Bond (If Applicable)
  4. Publish Notice
  5. Prepare Inventory
  6. Distribute Estate
  7. Close Estate (Optional)

1. Notice of Petition

The individual intending to petition the court must serve the Notice of Informal Probate and Return of Service (MPC 550) on interested parties at least seven days before doing so. The Return of Service will be filed with the court in the next step.[5]

2. File Documents

If the estate’s total value is $25,000 or less and contains no real estate, it may be distributed without probate using the Voluntary Administration Statement (MPC 170) (otherwise known as a “small estate affidavit”).[6]

The personal representative may begin proceedings by filing the forms below as a complete set with the Registry of Probate from the decedent’s county.[7] They can be filed in-person, by mail, or online.

If the court or the will does not require a bond, the personal representative will be issued the Letters of Authority (MPC 751), authorizing them to perform their duties. Certified copies may be obtained for $25 each.

3. Provide Bond (If Applicable)

Unless waived by the will or the court, the personal representative must post bond to provide collateral for the estate and protect the devisees from any mishandling of assets.[9] The bond amount is equal to the estimated value of the estate’s personal property as listed on the form and must be posted before the personal representative carries out any further duties. A surety for the bond can be found via:

4. Publish Notice

Within 30 days, the personal representative must submit the Informal Probate Publication Notice (MPC 551) to a newspaper circulating in the city/county where the decedent was domiciled. Proof of the publication is only required upon the court’s request.[10]

5. Prepare Inventory

The personal representative must prepare an Inventory (MPC 854) detailing the contents of the decedent’s estate and their fair market value within three months of their appointment.[11] Copies must be mailed to interested persons OR filed with the court.

If requested by the court or required by law, the personal representative must file the Account (MPC 853) and pay the filing fee. Otherwise, filing or completing the Account is not required.

6. Distribute Estate

The personal representative must settle any unpaid debts, claims, or taxes before distributing the remaining assets as instructed by the will. Most administration processes are unsupervised by the court and don’t require their approval for the distribution of assets.[12]

7. Close Estate (Optional)

To close an estate, the personal representative may file the Closing Statement (MPC 850) or the Petition for Order of Complete Settlement (MPC 855).

Filing the Closing Statement does not require the court’s approval of an Account, and it may be contested for up to a year after filing. The Closing Statement may be filed and sent to interested parties if the following requirements are met:[13]

  • The period for creditors to present claims has expired.[14]
  • Six months have passed since the personal representative’s appointment.
  • The Account has been served on interested parties and filed (if applicable).
  • The estate’s distribution is completed (including settling claims).

Otherwise, the Petition for Order of Complete Settlement may be filed along with a final Account.[15] Once approved, the personal representative is discharged, and the Account cannot be contested. Before filing, the following must apply:

  • The time limit for presenting claims has expired.
  • If the personal representative is not petitioning, a year has passed since their appointment.
  • All interested parties approve the Petition, OR a court citation has been delivered to interested parties 14 days before the return date set by the court and published in a county newspaper seven days before the return date.[16]

It should be noted that closing an estate after distribution is technically not mandatory; however, it is standard and highly advisable. That said, the court still has the authority to order a personal representative to close an estate.


  1. § 2-501
  2. § 2-502
  3. § 2-507
  5. § 3-306
  6. § 3-1201
  7. Estate Administration Procedural Guide
  8. Probate and Family Court Filing Fees
  9. § 3-603
  10. Informal Probate Publication Notice
  11. § 3-706
  12. Probate Types
  13. § 3-1003
  14. § 3-803
  15. § 3-1001
  16. § 1-401