Personal Representative Authorized to Petition for Complete Settlement and Approval of Final Accounting Prior to Distribution

           Heirs objecting to a Personal Representative’s petition for order of complete settlement  of the estate argued that the final account represented distribution had been made to the heirs which factually did not occur. The Personal Representative responded by moving to strike the objections under the MUPC and was met with a motion for summary judgment and attorney’s fees filed by the heirs. The lower court judge then denied the motion for summary judgment on the basis that payment could not be made until the final accounting of the estate was approved but ordered that such payment be made immediately upon the issuance of the final Decree. In a memorandum of decision and order, the judge struck the objections and ordered the Personal Representative to file a proposed final decree upon resolving the issue of attorney’s fees. A later order required the heirs to pay the Personal Representative’s attorney’s fees equally. The heirs then appealed.

            A panel of the Appeals Court (“the Panel”) reviewed the motion to strike de novo and was presented with a question of statutory interpretation. The Panel considered heirs’ argument that under G.L. c. 206, § 22 (the MUPC’s predecessor), a personal representative could not petition for complete settlement until the estate made all required payments. The argument was not persuasive, however, as the Panel stated that the MUPC “replaced those [provisions] ‘displaced by [its] particular provisions.’” Section 3-1001 of the MUPC was held to expressly authorize the Personal Representative to request approval of accountings and distribution of the estate. The Panel continued to state that its interpretation of Section 3-1001 is consistent with the legislative purpose of the MUPC as stated in Section 1-102: “to promote a ‘speedy and efficient system for liquidating the estate of the decedent and making distribution to the decedent’s successors.’”

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