Massachusetts Wills & Inheritance

By Beverly Bird

Inheritance laws in Massachusetts depend on whether or not you leave a will. If you do, you decide who gets your property after your death, subject to certain laws. If you do not, the state decides who gets your property. The probate court is much more involved in settling your estate if you leave no will.

Probate Assets

Probate assets are anything you own in your sole name. Whether or not you die with a will, these assets must pass through the probate process in Massachusetts to transfer ownership to your heirs and beneficiaries. One of the first tasks of an executor of a will, or a court-appointed administrator if you do not leave a will, is filing an inventory with the court, listing all your probate assets and their value on the date of your death. After payment of any estate taxes due, any debts you owe when you die, and costs of administering your estate, these assets are distributed to the beneficiaries in your will or to your biological heirs if you die without a will.

Non-Probate Assets

Some assets automatically bypass the probate process. These include anything you co-own with another individual that is set up to pass directly to that individual when you die. Life insurance policies, annuities and other retirement accounts usually have named beneficiaries. These would transfer automatically to the beneficiary without requiring probate unless the named beneficiary is your estate.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Revocation Due to Marriage or Divorce

Even if you leave a will, your estate can become complicated if you marry or divorce after you make it and do not write a new one or update the old one. If you get married, your entire will might be revoked, subject to certain provisions, unless you state in the will that you wrote it intending to marry your spouse. If you are divorced, it revokes only the provisions regarding your ex-spouse.

Disinheritance Laws

You can disinherit anyone in Massachusetts except your spouse. However, if you disinherit a child or any other heir, you must specifically state in your will that it is your intention to do this, especially in the case of a child. Otherwise, the court can conceivably decide that the omission of your child was an oversight and award her a share of your estate. If you attempt to disinherit your spouse, Massachusetts allows her the right to waive your will and take a percentage of your estate instate. The size of the percentage depends on whether or not you have any children and your parents are living, and is determined by the court even if you don’t live together at the time of your death.

Rights of Inheritance

When you die without a will, called dying intestate, Massachusetts gives your property to your closest living relatives based on an order of succession set out in its statutes. If you have no children and your parents are deceased, your spouse gets your entire estate. If you do have children, your spouse gets half of your property and your children share the other half. If your parents are alive but you have no children, your spouse still gets your entire estate if it is worth $200,000 or less. If it is valued at more than $200,000, he gets the first $200,000 and the balance is divided between him and your parents. The court can order the sale of certain assets to raise the $200,000.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
What Constitutes an Heir?

References

Related articles

Hawaii Intestate Probate Laws

A properly executed will gives you the ability to freely distribute your assets after death. In Hawaii, if you don't leave a will or if it fails to meet certain requirements, your property will pass according to a rigid set of rules outlined by state law. These rules are inflexible, and they prioritize heirs based on their legal relationship to you. Surviving spouses and children take first, followed by parents and siblings, then grandparents. If no surviving family members can be found, your estate becomes the property of the state.

In Texas What Will Happen to My House if I Die Without a Will?

According to the law firm of Ford and Mathiason, under no circumstance will your home go to the state or to a stranger if you die intestate, or without a will. Texas statutes lay out a defined hierarchy for the inheritance of real property. It is extremely involved, however, so it may be a good idea to either make a will or consult with an attorney to make sure you correctly understand the order of succession for inheritance.

Who Are Heirs to a Last Will & Testament?

The term “heir” is often confused with “beneficiary” when, in fact, definitions of the two differ. Heirs are individuals who inherit from an estate because they are family members of the deceased, not because they were named as a beneficiary in the deceased’s will. In fact, the deceased may not have left a will at all.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

CT Laws on Wills & Estates

When someone dies in Connecticut, the executor -- the person appointed in the will to carry out its terms -- has 30 ...

Wills in Virginia

Writing a will allows you to decide before your death who is going to get your assets, who is going to oversee the ...

Wills & Estates in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania courts are less involved with the probate process of a deceased’s will than some other states, but there ...

Tennessee Laws on Wills

Tennessee’s laws regarding wills are specific and exact. If your will is deemed invalid by the court for not meeting ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED