Co-chair Kerry Spindler (Goulston & Storrs) will continue to work on follow up efforts to facilitate the transition to the MUPC and alleviate the burden on the courts. Click here to check out an article about this successful public service program.
An August 27th article in Lawyers Weekly, “Bar, court still adjusting to probate code overhaul,” (subscription required) 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, 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, they 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 (email@example.com) or Cameron Casey (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information about the program.
In April 2012, the much anticipated Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code (MUPC) went into effect. The new law dramatically changed the landscape of trust and estate work in the Commonwealth. The BBA Trust & Estates Section, along with the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Probate and Family Court have worked tirelessly to create a smooth transition for practitioners, the courts and pro se litigants.
Working in partnership – a multifaceted approach was designed with the input of Chief Justice Paula M. Carey and her staff. The centerpiece of the program is the MUPC Resource Desk. Eight desks, being staffed once or twice a week have been set up across the state in various Probate & Family Courts Registries. Since April, 49 attorneys have volunteered at the Resource Desks. They have assisted 154 individuals including other attorneys, court staff and members of the community by answering questions about the MUPC. The Section also chose to use the BBA Trusts & Estates Section blog to highlight particular aspects of the new law and respond to questions lawyers may pose.
Beyond the Billable reached out to two volunteers to find out what it means to volunteer at a Resource Desk.
Peter Shapland, Co-Chair of the BBA Trusts & Estates Section Public Service Committee, Day Pitney LLP
I volunteer at the MUPC Resource Desk for at least two important reasons. First, it provides me an opportunity to offer some of my time and knowledge as a public service, to both the Probate Courts and persons of limited means using the Courts. Second, it gives me the opportunity to represent the BBA, confirming its own focus on public service.
The MUPC represents the most significant single statutory change in the history of the Massachusetts Probate Courts, and that change has come at a time of limited resources for the Courts. The Resource Desk offers some assistance to the Court staff, and to the public, in adapting to the new rules brought by the MUPC.
Volunteering allows me to do service (which all lawyers should do!), but in this particular area, it benefits me in a more tangible way as well. Each time I’ve volunteered, I’ve encountered questions that prompted me to learn more about the new law, keep my own skills sharp, and determine how the courts will be handling numerous issues under the MUPC. It’s a win-win situation!
The courts are struggling with staff cuts, reduced hours and minimal budgets. The new law, although an improvement, adds to their burden. To the extent that lawyers who have been trained on the MUPC can help, everyone will benefit.
If you are interested in learning more about the MUPC Resource Desk or would like to volunteer, please contact Stephanie Lee, Public Service Programs Coordinator at email@example.com.