Massachusetts Probate: Estate Administration Deeds

What happens to your property after you die? Most likely, your assets will be subject to probate, the legal process of settling an estate and distributing any remaining property to those entitled to receive it. All assets that do not pass directly through a survivorship interest, beneficiary designation, or trust are subject to probate.

Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC), codified at G. L. c. 190B, governs probate proceedings in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Probate of the estate takes place in the Probate and Family Court of the county or district in which the decedent resided at the time of death. The type of probate required (informal vs. formal, small estate, etc.) depends on the specific situation.

Depending on the testacy status (whether the decedent left a valid will), the court appoints an executor or administrator, more generally referred to as a personal representative (PR), as the estate’s fiduciary. The personal representative is selected by priority of appointment, set forth at G. L. c. 190B, § 3-203.

Part of the PR’s duties of administration may include making devises of real property pursuant to the terms of the decedent’s will. Massachusetts laws of intestate succession determine who may inherit the decedent’s property that is not deposed of through a will. A personal representative is authorized to execute and deliver a deed of conveyance pursuant to G. L. c. 190B, § 3-715(a)(3)(1).

To convey real property from an estate to devisees or heirs, the PR uses a deed of distribution under G. L. c. 190B, § 3-907. The deed of distribution states the decedent’s name and location and date of death, names the personal representative making the transfer, and cites the county of probate and docket number assigned to the estate. Each distributee’s name, address, and vesting information is required, along with a complete legal description of the relevant property and prior deed reference. Although no sale is made for the transfer, the deed evidences the distributee’s title, and is required to maintain an accurate chain of title.

G. L. c. 202 addresses sales of real estate by personal representatives. Sales may be required to pay the estate’s debts, for example. For formal probates, a decree (license) of the court is required to make a sale, only when there is no power of sale in the decedent’s will; for informal probates, a decree (license) is required, regardless of whether a power of sale is included in the will. G. L. c. 202, § 19 outlines the procedures for a petition to sell.

Conveyances of title made to a purchaser for value are free from claims of general creditors and of legatees and devisees under the decedent’s will (REBA Title Standard No. 10). Like other fiduciary deeds, PR deeds generally carry a special warranty, or limited covenant, that the granted premises are free from all encumbrances made by the grantor, and that the grantor warrants and defends the title to the grantee against the lawful claims of persons claiming by, through, or under the grantor. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, these are called quitclaim covenants.

In addition to the requirements described above for a deed of distribution, a deed of sale executed by a PR requires a statement of consideration made for the transfer of title, and all relevant documentation evidencing the PR’s authority to sell real property on behalf of the estate.

All deeds require the PR’s signature, made in the presence of a notary public, for a valid transfer of title. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts maintains two systems of recording. The Registry of Deeds handles recorded land documents, while the Registry District of the Land Court handles certificates of title for registered land. Registered land is insured by the Commonwealth, and chain of title is updated on the certificate of title. To ensure the proper recording procedure, consult a lawyer.

Related Massachusetts Probate Documents:

Because each situation is unique, consult a lawyer with any questions regarding estate administration and conveyances of real property by personal representatives in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.