What happens if I die without ever writing a will?

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2022 | Estate Planning

Like other states, Massachusetts has laws in place that set out how a person’s property will be transferred if they leave no will.

These laws also apply in other situations, such as when a person’s only will gets invalidated for some reason or if the will does not clearly address how certain property should transfer.

On the other hand, intestate laws would not apply to assets that do not go through the probate process.  Examples of this sort of property include property held in a trust, certain jointly held real estate, and proceeds from life insurance or retirement accounts.

Surviving spouses receive favorable treatment under intestate laws

Massachusetts’ intestate laws can be complicated and hard to apply in a given situation.

However, as is the case with many other states, Massachusetts laws do give surviving spouses favorable treatment.

For example, a surviving spouse will get all probate property, minus expenses and valid debts, if a person dies leaving no descendants or living parents.

The surviving spouse also takes all property if a person dies with descendants, but all of those descendants are also the children, grandchildren, etc. of the surviving spouse.

In other situations, such as when there are stepchildren, the surviving spouse will be guaranteed at least the first $100,000 and half of any balance.

When a person dies unmarried, their descendants will inherit the property

When a person dies unmarried, their descendants, children, grandchildren and other relatives will inherit the property as set out in the law.

If a person also dies without descendants, then dividing the inheritance can get more complicated.

Basically, starting with the person’s parents and then siblings, the inheritance will pass to more and more distant relatives until a next of kin is eligible to receive the property.

Not surprisingly, not everyone would agree with the way Massachusetts has arranged the distribution of estates, which is a reason why many Massachusetts residents make out a will or other estate plan.