Register of Probate Richard Iannella Circa 2002

Responding to the needs of those who come to court without an attorney, Register of Probate Richard Iannella officially opened the Addington Resource Center in November, 2000. It was the first self-help center of its kind in Massachusetts.

The site provided self-help kits that assisted visitors as they prepared the paperwork that needed to be filed with the court. The self-help kits ranged from Change of Name, Divorce, Affidavits Disclosing Care or Custody Proceedings, Correcting a Birth Certificate, How to File a Complaint to Establish Paternity, and Removal or Changing the Guardian of a Minor among many others.
You can no longer download forms from this site.

Content is from the site's 2002 archived pages providing a glimpse of the type of information this site offered visitors.


A message from Register Richard Iannella:

Welcome to the official Richard Iannella Internet Web site. This site is maintained at private expense, and is an unofficial site of the Suffolk County Probate and Family Court Registry. I hope that you will find the many resources contained here to be helpful and informative.

If you live in Suffolk County, you will likely require the services of the Registry at some point in your life, as more than 17,000 new matters are filed here each year. Thirty years ago, more than 90% of our business was probate-related. As society has changed, so have many of our responsibilities, and now, more than 70% of our cases deal with family matters like divorce, paternity and visitation.

Some other key facts may surprise you:

While about 3,500 Suffolk County couples were married during the year 2000, more than 2000 couples filed for divorce during the very same period of time;

In nearly three-quarters of the cases that come before our court, one or more litigants appears without a lawyer.

Because the Registry has legal jurisdiction over probate and family-related matters, it is likely that you will come through our doors at some point in your life. In order to make the time that you may spend here as brief and effortless as possible, I have established programs and services to assist you. Many of these services are available on this Internet Web site, and I hope that you find them to be helpful.

As always, I am available to answer any specific questions that you may have, and I look forward to assisting you in any way that I can. 


"I am a big fan of Richard Iannella, having known him since he was a neighbor in my district. In addition to being a responsible public servant, he is a wonderful example of a caring individual. When my organization faced challenges with our outdated Visual FoxPro system, he dedicated many hours to helping us navigate through the complexities of modernizing our software. His insights were invaluable in guiding us towards a more efficient and effective replacement for Visual FoxPro. His assistance didn't just stop at technical advice; he also connected us with expert consultants and resources that significantly eased our transition. I am sad to see this great man leave office, but am certain that the benefit he provided us in this crucial technological upgrade will last long after he has moved on." - Peter Spence, Villanova Post


The work of the Suffolk County Probate and Family Court Registry:


The word 'probate' is defined as the action of determining whether a will is valid. In Massachusetts, though, the term has been used to cover the administration of estates, litigation involving trusts, appointments and supervision of conservators and/or guardians, and, a variety of legal actions usually handled in other states by 'Domestic Relations' courts.

The Suffolk County Probate and Family Court Registry is the administrative arm of the Probate & Family Court in the county. It handles legal cases involving wills, estates, guardianship, divorce, child custody and support, paternity, adoptions, change of name, etc. Among specific matters dealt with by the Probate and Family Court are:

(Establishing authenticity of a will, appointment of executor, settling of estates when the decedent left a will, permission to carry-on a business, permit sale of real estate, determining heirs, etc.)

ADMINISTRATION OF ESTATES (Appointment of administrator for estates where there is no will - similar to probate of will - except state statute determines heirs.)

GUARDIANSHIP OF MINOR CHILDREN (Where parents are deceased or unable to care for their child(ren) and have not had a 'standby guardian' appointed.)

MEDICAL GUARDIANSHIP (Appointment of a person to make medical decisions for a person unable, or in some cases, unwilling. Does not include control of finances.)

CONSERVATORSHIP (Appointment of a person to manage the finances of another who cannot, by reason of mental illness, alcoholism, disappearance, etc. Does not involve legal custody of the person.)

(FULL) GUARDIANSHIP (Less common in recent years. Involves appointment of someone to have custody of both the person and property of another.)

PATERNITY (Reflecting societal changes, the Probate Court has now been given the duty of determining parentage of children. Until recently, the issue was handled as a criminal matter in the state's District Courts. Paternity actions now number in the thousands in Massachusetts Probate Courts.

Generally speaking, the Registry is divided into two departments as staff deal with both probate and family-related issues. Assistant Registers of Probate examine all papers presented to the court before they are accepted to determine if they meet the requirements of the law. These assistants provide procedural assistance--just short of legal advice--to lawyers practicing in the court and to members of the public who come to the court without a lawyer (called 'pro se' litigants.)

Records dating all the way back to 1636 are maintained by the registry. Unlike other courts, cases in the probate court never really end. Even decades after a matter appears closed, the case may come alive for reasons including the following:

  • An estate is found to have assets not dealt with ('after discovered' property);
  • The health, wealth or earning capacity of a party to a divorce or support order changes;
  • The subject of a custody or support order marries, dies or changes living situation;
  • Judgment for divorce are left unsettled in regard to disposition of inheritance, pension, etc;
  • A trustee, guardian or conservator dies, resigns or becomes unable to serve;
  • An adopted child seeks to open records for medical or other important purposes;
  • No means of appointing a successor trustee is available without court action;
  • A "testator's" wishes can't be obeyed and the court must substitute its judgment.



A Biography of Register Richard Iannella:

Richard Iannella was born in Jamaica Plain, a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. He is the fourth child and second son of Virginia Nelson Iannella and the late Christopher A. Iannella.

Virginia N. Iannella was born and raised in the Saint Brendan's Parish section of Dorchester. Christopher A. Iannella was born in San Sossio Baronia, Province of Avellino, Italy. He emigrated to the United States at the age of eight. He attended Boston College and the Harvard Law School and was a member of the Massachusetts Bar. He was elected to the Massachusetts legislature four times and was a longtime member of the Boston City Council. He served as President of that body longer than any other person.

Richard is married to the former Arlene Abell. They make their home in Jamaica Plain. They have two daughters, Victoria and Alexandra.

Richard's older brother, Christopher A. Iannella, Jr., is a practicing attorney, a founding partner of the Boston firm, Iannella & Mummolo. He is an elected member of the Massachusetts Governor's Council which confirms judicial officers and other major appointments of the Governor, approves pardons, etc. 

Richard also has two sisters. Judith Boland of Concord is a sales associate for DeWolf Real Estate in Concord. Suzanne Iannella is also a real estate sales associate for Daniel Mullin Real Estate in Boston. She also serves as one of three Commissioners of the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

Richard Iannella was the first Director of Code Enforcement for the City of Boston. He was hired to form this agency, charged with enforcing various regulations and ordinances of the city - generally called the 'Environmental Ordinances.' He gained considerable notoriety by bringing legal actions against prominent institutions who were violating the ordinances, including the five-star Ritz Carlton Hotel. This led to his notoriety as "Boston's Dirtiest Street Fighter."

In 1993, Richard was elected to the Boston City Council. He served as a member or chair of several important Council Committees, including service as Chair of the Committee on Planning and Development. He also chaired the Committee on Environment and Historic Preservation. In 1995, he was elected to a second two-year term.

In 1996, Richard was elected by the voters of Suffolk County - all of Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop - to his current position as Register of Probate for Suffolk County. Although not required to do so by law, he resigned his City Council seat to assume the county post.

Since becoming Register of Probate, Richard has continually been recognized by other elected officials, members of the media and the public at-large as an outspoken advocate for users of the Registry and the Probate Court. Just after taking office, Richard streamlined Registry operations in order to better serve the public. Because more than half of those who come to court do so without a lawyer, he sought and received legislative funding to assist these unrepresented litigants, and was able to develop and distribute self-help pamphlets. In 2000, he officially opened the Addington Resource Center - the first do-it-yourself center in the Commonwealth. 

Since his election, Richard has also established a new partnership to better assist those affected by domestic violence, and expanded the "Lawyer for the Day" program, where volunteer attorneys are available to give eligible Registry clients legal assistance and advice. He received national attention for his successful recovery of wills and other documents that had been stolen from the Registry. (The papers were signed by legendary Hall of Fame baseball stars, and were worth thousands of dollars on the open market.) 

His latest community outreach effort involves neighborhood meetings throughout Suffolk County. Hundreds have attended these innovative and informative meetings since the series began in mid-2001, marking the first time that the Probate and Family Courts have reached out beyond the courthouse walls.




Register of Probate Iannella resigns

February 18, 2011 By Rebeca Oliveira

JAMAICA HILLS—Jamaica Plain resident Richard Iannella resigned as Register of the Suffolk Probate and Family Court early last month, four years before his term was due to expire and almost 15 years after first being elected. Iannella is best known for being part of a prominent Jamaica Plain and Boston political family and for streamlining registry operations in order to better serve the public.

“I’m looking for new challenges in life. I’ve had a wonderful, wonderful experience working in the public sector, but it’s time to explore other avenues,” he told the Gazette in a phone interview last week.

His last day at the Probate Court will be March 31, he said, adding that he will be “happy to help whomever the governor chooses” to replace him. “I am happy to volunteer in any capacity,” Iannella said.

The probate court handles divorces, estates, name changes, custody cases and other common concerns people have in their lives.

Iannella said he plans to go to work for his brother Chris, a lawyer, saying that his plans for April 1 are “no different than today—get up and go to work.”

Iannella is responsible for streamlining the probate court and making it more user-friendly for more than half the users of the probate court—those who do not employ a lawyer.

He was the force behind the development of self-help pamphlets, the opening of the Addington Resource Center—the first do-it-yourself probate center in the Commonwealth—in 2000, and the online accessibility of many of the documents available there.

Iannella also organized community outreach efforts including neighborhood meetings and expanded the “Lawyer for the Day” program.

He had court users place required legal notices in neighborhood newspapers instead of big daily newspapers, thus saving them money and providing support for the papers and targeted outreach for the notices.

Iannella was first elected Register of Probate for Suffolk County in 1996, and has been re-elected every six years since. Before that post, he served as a City Councillor starting in 1993 before being re-elected in 1995. He resigned his City Council seat to assume the county post, even though he was not legally required to do so. He once served as the head of Code Enforcement for the city.

“[Public service] is in my blood,” Iannella said. His family has been in public service for 60 years, he added. His father, Christopher A. Iannella, served in the Massachusetts legislature four times and was a longtime member of the Boston City Council, serving as president of that body longer than any other person.

Christopher A. Iannella, Jr., Richard’s brother, is a practicing personal injury lawyer and is an elected member of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council. One of Iannella’s sisters, Suzanne Iannella, serves as one of three Commissioners of the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.

Register Iannella has made a form available to Massachusetts residents wishing to file a Declaration of Homestead with their local Register of Deeds.

"You Can Protect Your Family's Home -- Evenif Someone Sues" 

A Guide to The Homestead Act in Massachusetts.

For most of us, a house is the biggest investment we will ever make and the largest asset we will ever own. Most importantly, it is the place that we call home. Shouldn’t we be doing all that we can to safeguard this important asset? To help you protect your home in case you are ever sued, the Massachusetts Legislature established an easy and inexpensive procedure that allows any homeowner to file a ‘Declaration of Homestead.’ Once filed, creditors cannot take your home to satisfy debts up to amounts set in the law.

Although the subject of Homestead is primarily under the jurisdiction of the Register of Deeds, the Suffolk County Probate and Family Court Registry has decided to actively publicize and promote The Homestead Act because it is an easy way for you to protect your family and your assets. It should also be an important part of any estate plan that provides for your family and your heirs.

All homeowners should review the following qualifiers to see if you are eligible to file a Homestead Declaration:

  1. -   You can file for protection on a home that you own only if it is your and / or your family’s principal residence. The home can be a single or multi-family dwelling, apartment house, condominium unit, etc. -- just as long as it is a primary residence;
  3. -   An owner can claim Homestead Act protection regardless of marital status or the presence of children in the home;
  5. -   The Homestead Act does not apply to a secondary residence, such as a cottage or summer home, and you cannot claim more than one estate;
  7. -   Homestead can be filed by a sole owner, or by any of the owners if there is more than one. (Only one person should file to protect a family residence, except if there are two owners and both are either disabled or over the age of 62. In this instance, it is advantageous for both to file);
  9. -   Homestead Act protection will not stop enforcement of court ordered payments (child support, unpaid taxes, etc.) or if debts involve duress, fraud, etc, and does not stop foreclosure on your mortgage or debts incurred before filing the declaration;
  11. -   Where there is only one owner, or if one of the owners is under age 62 and not permanently disabled, effective October 25, 2000, The Homestead Act offers $500,000 of protection. If there are two owners and both are at least 62 years old or permanently disabled, each may file separately under The Homestead Act for protection worth $1,000,000 (disability must be proven with a letter from the Social Security Administration or a signed letter from your own doctor);

It is also important to remember the following facts:

  2. -   If a declaration has been filed and more than one owner becomes disabled or reaches age 62, a new declaration should be filed to increase the protection;
  4. -   Filing a declaration does not prevent you from selling the property, leaving it to someone in your will, etc;

To file a Declaration of Homestead, you will need to know the ‘book and page’ numbers of your recorded deed (or the ‘Certificate of Title number’ in the case of registered land). The fee to file a declaration is $35. 

Declarations must be filed in the Registry of Deeds in the county where you live. Here in Suffolk County, the Registry of Deeds is located along with the Probate Registry in the Edward Brooke Courthouse, 24 New Chardon Street, Boston.

If you are not in Massachusetts, contact your state's equivalent of the Registry of Deeds to see if a similar Homestead law exists in your state.

Should you have further questions, contact your local Register of Deeds. 


Are you a missing heir ? 
Are we looking for you to give you $$$$ ?

Suffolk County Register of Probate Richard Iannella is actively looking for missing heirs to money held in special accounts at the Registry. Iannella describes these accounts and who can claim the funds held in them in the interview below:

How did the Registry of Probate come to be in charge of this money?

The funds are held in what we call ‘custodial accounts,’ and they ended up in the jurisdiction of the Registry because of legal action that took place at one time or another in our court – like the probating of a will, holding of money in escrow because of a divorce or other dispute, or holding onto funds left to a minor who can receive the money once they come of age.

What kinds of accounts are there?

In some, like ‘minor accounts,’ inheritances were left for children to receive once they turned 18. Somehow, though, the word never got to these people that the money was theirs once they came of age.

Most of the cases are those where people left money to relatives, descendants or friends when they died, but the executors of the will couldn’t find these heirs when it came time to settle the estate. In a few cases, even the intended heir had passed away, and therefore, wasn’t available to receive the funds. There are also cases where people leave money but have no heirs at all. In order to ‘close out’ the will and complete their responsibilities, the executors left the money with us. We are now responsible to maintain the account and find the potential heirs.

How much has been given out thus far?

Overall, we’ve given out almost $50,000 ($46,590 to be exact) to the rightful heirs. Just about all of this money has gone to minors who had money left for them but didn’t realize it until we made contact with them.

How much still remains to be distributed?  

All in all, there’s a little more than $700,000 to be distributed to the rightful heirs once we find them...or they find us. 

In one instance, $3,000 left to each of three grandchildren three decades ago has more than quadrupled, and each heir is now due nearly $13,000. Very few of these cases involve small dollar amounts. In fact, there are thousands of dollars due to many of the individuals that we are looking for.



Helpful information about the Parent Education Program:

If you and your spouse are in the process of divorce and you have a minor child or children, participation in a Parent Education Program is mandated by the court. 

Some of the provisions of Standing Order 1-03 issued by the Chief Justice of the Probate and Family Court, effective August 1, 2003, are summarized as follows: 

- The interests of the minor children of parties appearing before it would be well served by educating their parents about children's emotional needs and the effects of divorce on child behavior and development. 

- All parties to any action for divorce in which there are minor children shall attend and participate in an approved Parent Education Program. This requirement applies to both joint petitions and complaints for divorce, and as ordered by a judge of this court in an action to establish paternity, complaints for modification or contempt, or in any case involving visitation, custody or support of minor children.

- Attendance at an approved program is mandatory for parties to such action unless waived by the court. Parties must register with an approved provider within sixty (60) days of service of the original complaint upon the original defendant and must attend the next available session. 

- No pre-trial conference or trial will be held by the court until the court receives a certificate of attendance from an approved program for each party, or until the court waives the requirement. An uncontested divorce hearing may be scheduled pending attendance if the parties file confirmations of registration with the court and so long as both parties complete the program prior to the hearing. A pre-trial conference in a contested case may be similarly scheduled so long as the parties complete the program prior to the conference.

- The court may waive the attendance requirement upon motion, with notice, for one or both parties.  Waivers will only be granted upon a demonstrable showing of chronic and severe violence which negates safe parental communication; language barriers; institutionalization or other unavailability of a party; unavailability of a program in the county where the original divorce was filed; failure of the other party to complete a program; or where justice otherwise indicates. 

- Sanctions for failure to register with an approved program within sixty (60) days of service of the original complaint upon the original defendant may be imposed by the court.

- The parties shall each pay $65.00 to the program in advance of the seminar to offset the cost of materials and facilitators.

- A party may pay a reduced fee of $5.00 to the provider if that party has submitted and had allowed an "Affidavit of Indigency and Request for Waiver." This available at the Registry of the Probate and Family Court. The party must submit a copy of this form to the provider when registering for a program at a reduced fee of $5.00.

(Further information about the Parent Education Program and related requirements is available from the Suffolk County Probate and Family Court Registry.)


"There is No Room for Abuse in Any Home:" 
A guide to resources available to families impacted by violence and abuse.

Abuse isn't just wrong, it's illegal. If your family is facing violence or the threat of violence, help is available. If you are in danger, call 911 now!

If not currently in immediate danger, you can obtain a restraining order from the Probate Court, or from your Superior, District or Municipal court. During nights and weekends, your local police department (numbers listed below) can contact a judge to obtain the order for you.

There is no charge for an order. Although police notify the other party if an order is issued, your phone and address can be kept private.

You can ask for a restraining order against:
A family member, spouse, or former spouse;
Anyone you live with or used to live with;
Anyone you had a dating relationship with.

You may seek an order if:
You have been abused physically;
You have been threatened with physical abuse;
Threats, force or duress were used to obtain or try to obtain sexual relations with you.

In order to file, you must be:

At least eighteen years old, or have a parent or legal guardian file for you. (If unavailable, come to the court for advice.)

When you file, it is helpful if you:
Bring a picture of the person to be restrained;
Have their address and/or phone number;
Know their employer's name & work address;
Give description and plate number of their car;
Indicate any drug history or gun ownership

If you need an order to protect your children, you can file additional forms with the court. You may also be able to get an order for support money, unless there is already an order (or a request for an order) in the Probate Court. Support that is part of a restraining order expires when that order does, unless the Probate Court issues an order that continues or modifies it.

Ordinarily, a temporary restraining order is granted the same day that you ask, and, within ten business days, there will be a court hearing to see if the order should be continued. 


You must go to the court for the ten-day hearing if you want the restraining order to remain in effect. Continued restraining orders will expire in a year unless you go to the court and ask to have them continued.


If you live in Boston, Chelsea, Revere or Winthrop you can file in the Probate Court, the Superior Court, or at your local court: