Section 1 of Chapter 211B of the Massachusetts General Laws established the Probate and Family Court Department (PFCD), which has jurisdiction over probate and family matters such as divorce, paternity, child support, custody, visitation, adoption, termination of parental rights, and abuse prevention. All probate matters fall under PFCD’s purview, including wills, administrations, guardianships, conservatorships, and name changes. PFCD oversees 14 divisions, including the Suffolk County Registry of Probate and Family Court (SCRPFC), each with a specific territorial jurisdiction, to preside over the probate and family matters brought before it. Each division’s organizational structure consists of three separately managed offices: the Judge’s Lobby, headed by a First Justice; the Register of Probate’s Office, headed by a Register of Probate, an elected official; and the Probation Office, headed by a Chief Probation Officer. The First Justice is the administrative head of the division, and the Register of Probate and Chief Probation Officer are responsible for the internal administration of their respective offices.
SCRPFC, which was established by Chapter 217 of the General Laws, is located in Boston. According to SCRPFC’s website, its territorial jurisdiction includes “Boston, Brighton, Charlestown, Chelsea, Dorchester, East Boston, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, Revere, Roslindale, South Boston, and Winthrop.”
In its strategic plan dated June 2013, the Massachusetts Trial Court indicated that one of the technological enhancements it was piloting was an electronic, or e-file, system for court documents and related information. The Trial Court introduced an e-file pilot program for probate and family courts using a system called eFileMA on March 8, 2016. This system, created and administered by Tyler Technologies, was fully implemented for use by SCRPFC on September 1, 2018, and enables filing to be performed through a secure method. According to the eFileMA website, the system “allows filers to easily open court cases and e-file documents to participating courts anytime and from anywhere—24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” Subsequently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) published SJC Rule 1.25 (effective September 1, 2018), which governs the e-filing process for all courts using eFileMA, including SCRPFC.
To be eligible to use eFileMA and send and receive court documents electronically, individuals must complete an online registration form that is processed by Tyler Technologies. Eligible parties can include, among others, attorneys; individuals who are representing themselves in legal matters; and individuals who are seeking, or have obtained, permission from a court to participate in a case (e.g., witnesses seeking protective orders or court investigators). Once registered, individuals can submit documents to the court for approval. Individuals can access court-approved documents via the eFileMA portal on the eFileMA website, using their unique passwords. Eligible parties can use eFileMA to electronically send and receive specific case information, court documents, and court notices and to pay any applicable filing fees.
Twice each day, an SCRPFC supervisor reviews eFileMA for any new filings. In addition, SCRPFC has a supervisor or case manager who is exclusively responsible for reviewing any information related to estate filings, filings for the probating of wills, or assignment of personal representatives.1 During these reviews, the supervisor or case manager accepts submissions that have been correctly filed in accordance with the eFileMA instructions and rejects those for which filing instructions have not been followed. If an e-filed submission is rejected or canceled, any court fees paid are refunded electronically and a notification to refile is sent to the filer. Once a submission is accepted, Tyler Technologies electronically sends the e-filed information to MassCourts2 and sends any collected court fees to SCRPFC for processing.
|Date published:||December 31, 2020|