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Guide File a formal probate for an estate

Formal probate matters are typically heard by a judge and may involve one or more hearings before the court. Find out how to file a formal probate for an estate and what forms you'll need.

Table of Contents

1. Fill out the forms

There are different forms you'll need to file depending on whether or not the decedent (the person who has died) died with a will.

If the decedent died with a will

You’ll need to file:

If the decedent died without a will

You’ll need to file:

Additional forms you may need to file

Additional Resources for 1. Fill out the forms

2. Gather the fees

Contact the Probate & Family Court location you're filing at to find out what forms of payment are accepted for fees. 

Name Fee
Formal probate petition filing fee $375
Formal probate surcharge fee $15
Formal probate citation fee $15

3. File the forms and fees

There are 3 ways you can file a formal probate.

Online

You can eFile a formal probate for an estate online. For information on how to eFile, please see Learn about eFiling in the Trial Court.

By mail

You can mail the forms and fees to the correct Probate & Family Court.

  • If the decedent lived in Massachusetts — File in the county where they lived when they died.
  • If the decedent didn't live in Massachusetts — File in any county where the decedent had property when they died. You may need to file additional forms in the state where the decedent lived as well.

In person

You can file the forms and fees in person at the correct Probate and Family Court.

  • If the decedent lived in Massachusetts — File in the county where they lived when they died.
  • If the decedent didn't live in Massachusetts — File in any county where the decedent had property when they died. You may need to file additional forms in the state where the decedent lived as well.

4. Serve the citation

A formal probate proceeding requires both written notice and publication notice before the allowance of the formal petition. After you file and pay for a formal petition, the Registry of Probate will issue formal notice to the petitioner (the person filing for probate). The formal notice is called a citation. You'll need to serve a copy of the citation on all interested persons and publish a copy in the newspaper listed in the Order of Notice.

Additional Resources for 4. Serve the citation

5. Check the status of your case

To find out how to check the status of your probate case, please see How to search court dockets.

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