Probate and Family Court Protocols During the COVID-19 Crisis
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all divisions of the Probate and Family Court in Massachusetts remain closed to the public, except for emergency matters, until at least April 6, 2020. Standing Orders released by the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court establish a number of important protocols during this period.
Court filings for non-emergency matters will be submitted by mail or filed electronically. Clerks of the Court will docket the filings, but no “event” will be scheduled until May 1, 2020.
In-person hearings are similarly halted, except in cases of emergencies that cannot be resolved by videoconference or telephonic hearings. In lieu of in-person hearings, the Court will conduct “virtual” hearings whenever possible until normal court operations resume.
Our Trusts and Estates team continues to prepare and file routine probate paperwork notwithstanding court delays. While we do not expect to encounter many emergencies that require engaging the Court, we may see the need for emergency appointments of a Special Personal Representative. Special Personal Representatives are appointed in urgent situations to gain access to a decedent’s safe deposit box, conduct a will search, or preserve assets of an estate. The appointment of a Special Personal Representative is a type of emergency matter that the Court will hear promptly at this time.
If you have any questions or concerns relating to current operations of the probate courts and/or how the COVID-19 crisis may impact you and your family in this regard, please contact us at any time.