When a client comes to me because they have been appointed the executor of someone’s estate (Massachusetts now refers to executors as “personal representatives”) they often want to know if they will need to go to Court and stand in front of a judge as part of the process.
In Massachusetts, in an attempt to streamline the process and make sure that people with actual disputes have access to the judges, the courts allow the paperwork that is needed to open an estate to simply be mailed in. It can also be walked-in to the appropriate department, although the Probate Courts close at 3pm so this is not always convenient for people. Once the court receives the paperwork, it is reviewed by a magistrate and if there are no issues or missing documents, the papers appointing the person as personal representative will be mailed to them.
The only time a judge would need to get involved, and the parties would need to appear in court, would be if there was an actual dispute. This could be a disagreement over who should serve as personal representative, a dispute over the validity of the will, or asking the court to help determine the meaning of an ambiguous clause in the will.
In general, however, all of the work that needs to be done with the court for an estate can be done by mail and you won’t ever need to stand in front of a judge.