Quincy, MA asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Massachusetts

Q: Good day, staff: A question regarding objections, please?

I'm executor for mom's estate. LENGTHY and ASCERBIC going all the way.

If the six objectors (also heirs) contest the final estate accounting and it goes to another level, who is responsible for any probate or legal fees? Does it cost the objectors or does any cost come from the estate's funds?

I will have month-by-month bank statements with full receipts and a final accounting with spreadsheets from the accountant. I have shown and recorded due diligence throughout the process. The assets are cash only at $144,000. No real estate or other property.

Thank you your kind assistance with this matter. Brina

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1 Lawyer Answer
Michael M Marques
Michael M Marques
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Boston, MA
  • Licensed in Massachusetts

A: First, the interested parties must allege sufficient legal grounds to challenge the will. Sufficient grounds may include a) undue influence; b) lack of capacity; c) fraud; or d) improper execution. If those elements are met, a petition can be filed to formally contest the will. The interested parties challenging the document will be able to present their case. The rule generally dictates that each party is responsible for its own attorney’s fees and expenses upfront to litigate. Executors are responsible to defend contests to protect the interests of the estate and are generally entitled to use funds from the estate to pay for defending against the contest.

However, there may be an opportunity to recover those costs. Massachusetts General Laws c. 215, § 45 provides that in contested cases before a probate court, costs and expenses may be awarded to either party, to be paid by the other, or may be awarded to either or both parties to be paid out of the estate which is the subject of the controversy, as justice and equity may require. This is at the discretion of the court and this does not mean that every successful challenge to a will or the actions of a trustee will result in the successful party recovering their attorney’s fees.

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