By Cameron Casey
An August 27th article in Lawyer’s Weekly, “Bar, court still adjusting to probate code overhaul,” highlights the challenges that the probate courts, the trusts and estates bar and the community have faced as the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) has been implemented during the last five months. The article emphasizes the court’s efforts to adapt to the new law while being constrained by a hiring freeze. Despite being understaffed, the court has gone to great lengths to provide information about the new law to the public and the bar, including making a procedural guide, forms, checklists, training materials and practice tips available on its website.
In turn, the trusts and estates bar, led by the Boston Bar Association and the Massachusetts Bar Association, has made significant contributions of time and expertise to help ease the transition to the MUPC. Well before the MUPC took effect, the BBA, the MBA and the court collaborated on ways to assist practitioners, pro se litigants and court staff in understanding the new law. In addition to sponsoring numerous CLE programs on the new law, the BBA and the MBA, working closely with court personnel, spearheaded an effort to establish MUPC resource desks staffed by bar association volunteers. These resource desks have been set up in the probate registries in seven counties across the state and are typically in session for two to four hours each week.
The resource desks have allowed trusts and estates practitioners to supplement the court’s efforts by providing input and guidance on MUPC-related questions posed by lawyer and non-lawyer visitors to the probate registries. Resource desk volunteers have also helped open a dialogue between the court staff and the bar, discussing issues and questions that have arisen for both groups during the first months that the MUPC has been in effect. To date, 49 volunteer lawyers have assisted 166 people, including at least 44 attorneys, 71 pro se litigants, and 28 court staff.
The MUPC resource desks will be in place at least through the end of October and are in need of volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering a few hours of your time to help the court and the bar through what continues to be a challenging time, please contact Peter Shapland (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Cameron Casey email@example.com) for information on how to register for the program.
Cameron Casey is an Associate at Ropes & Gray LLP. Cameron is a member of the Boston Bar Association’s Trusts and Estates Section Steering Committee and currently serves as co-chair of the Section’s Public Service Committee.