Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article, “Appeals Court ruling highlights risks of pre-printed forms,” quotes Joseph L. Bierwirth, Jr.

November 15, 2018

An Appeals Court ruling in an inheritance dispute highlights the hazards of over-reliance on pre-printed forms for making filings in the Probate & Family Court, attorneys say.

Hemenway & Barnes partner Joseph L. Bierwirth Jr. said that “While the form [in this case] presents only a binary choice — objection or no objection — there’s no prohibition against attaching an addendum to clarify the purpose of the appearance,” he said. “[The defendant’s] failure to do so here engendered the confusion … and the need for an appeal to set things right.”

Moreover, Bierwirth saw merit in the panel’s observation that the appointed fiduciary is obligated to provide an opportunity for a fair court determination of heirship.

“In this case and in many others, the personal representative needs to set aside her personal interest and fulfill her duties to all the beneficiaries to fairly and impartially administer the estate,” Bierwirth said, noting that the plaintiff in this case stands to benefit monetarily if the estate has three heirs instead of four.

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