How to Access Massachusetts Probate Court Records Online

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As an estate planning attorney, I'm often asked how to obtain copies of a deceased person's last will and testament or other probate court filings. Generally speaking, it's relatively easy to procure such items, since they are public court records which anyone may read. Furthermore, internet technology makes it easier than ever to locate information about a deceased person's estate online--in most cases for little or no cost. At the very least, you'll be able to view a list of documents that have been filed, and learn the names of executors, attorneys the executors have hired, and presiding judges of the estates probated.

How to Find Out Where a Probate Estate Has Been Filed

An estate is probated in the county in which the deceased person lived at the time of his or her death. In some cases, estates are probated in the county where deceased individuals owned real estate. The following website can help you locate the correct county, by plugging in the name of the city where the deceased person lived or owned real estate: City - County Search.

How to Request Copies of Probate Court Documents

After locating the appropriate county, an online search can lead you to that county's probate court. But beware: some states refer to their probate court as "circuit court," "surrogate's court," "orphan's court," or other names. In any case, after locating the correct probate court, you can procure a copy of a will or other probate document by taking the following steps:

  1. Appearing in person to request a copy of the will or any other probate document.
  2. Paying the copying fee of $1 to a few dollars per page of the document you'd like printed out.
  3. Providing a self-addressed stamped envelope that a court clerks may use to mail you a copy of the desired documents, if you cannot make the request in person.

How to View the Online Probate Dockets for Estates Probated in Massachusetts

If you're interested in an estate that's being probated in one of the following fourteen Massachusetts counties: Barnstable, Berkshire, Bristol, Dukes, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester, the following steps will help you view probate court dockets online.

  1. Access Massachusetts' probate dockets and records.
  2. Next to "Court Department," click on "Probate and Family Court."
  3. "Court Division" will pop up next to "Court Department." Click on the applicable county name. 
  4. Enter the decedent's first and last name, then click "Search."
  5. Once you locate your probate case, click on the case number, to view the complete probate docket by date, along with names of the personal representative, the attorney representing the personal representative, and the judge presiding over the estate.

After locating the documents you wish to have copied, you can go to the applicable county's Probate and Family Court website to obtain all of that court's contact information.