I assume the IRA is valued at less than $25,000. If so, you should be able to file a "Voluntary Administration Statement" with the probate court, which will permit you to act as Voluntary Personal Representative of your mother's estate. However, because she passed away in 2009, you would have to file as though she died intestate (without a will), as there is now a 3-year statute of limitations on probating wills (unless title to land is at issue). As Voluntary Personal Representative, you would be required to pay the assets equally among your mother's children, or their children, if a child of your mother's has died.
You should file the Voluntary Statement, with a certified copy of her death certificate, at the Probate Court in the county where she lived. There is a filing fee of $115 for this form.
The Voluntary Statement form can be found at:
Good luck -
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I would take Ms. Harvey's advice because she has shown herself to be a good lawyer here on AVVO. I would note however that you need to make sure of the debt situation (you mentioned debts and I'm not clear if they were all paid off or not) because if there are debts remaining and there is going to be a probate asset the debt should be paid.
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With your father having predeceased your mother, unless there were contingent beneficiaries listed on the IRA, the only way to access the money in the IRA is for the account to hold the estate as the beneficiary. You indicate that your mother's estate was depleted as a result of her health care costs. If she was a beneficiary of MassHealth, or some other state plan, there could be a lien placed on the assets of the estate. This lien could be negotiated with the state, or at a minimum, the probate process could allow for expenses to be paid. However, if you do an informal probate as has been recommended, please be aware that the personal representative is not permitted to be compensated.
So while this seems as a simple process, it may not be. I would suggest that you consult with a probate attorney so that you can respect your mother’s wishes to the extent you are permitted to do so. Good Luck!
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