What Happens If You Die Without a Will in MA

In Estate Planning by Tramontozzi Law

Most people generally know that it’s a good idea to have a will. However, most people d not actually prepare one. Understanding what happens if you die without a will in MA is important and may change what you decide to do.

Benefits of a Will

In general, wills allow you to dictate who shall receive your assets and in what amounts/percentages. It is a way for you to make your wishes known. It can also minimize (although not necessarily fully prevent) disputes among heirs and beneficiaries.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will in MA

If you die without a will in MA, then Massachusetts law will dictate who your beneficiaries are and what they may have a right to.

Who Is Considered an Heir

First and foremost, your assets will be given to your heirs. Who is considered an heir will depend on the surviving members of your family. Given teh unique situations in today’s modern families, a few different scenarios may exist. Here are some examples.

  1. Spouse & Children – If you have a surviving spouse, by default, he/she will be your sole heir (even if you have children).
  2. Parents & Spouse, but No Children – If you have no children but are survived by your parents and your spouse, they will all be heirs. If your parents are no longer living, then your spouse would be the sole heir.
  3. Spouse & Children From Separate Marriages – If you have children from your current marriage and from a previous marriage, your current spouse and child(ren) are heirs. Children from previous marriages are excluded as heirs.
  4. Spouse & Child from Previous Relationship – If you have no children with your current spouse but those from a previous relationship, your spouse and those children will be heirs.

Beneficiary Percentages

Under Massachusetts law, individuals who are equally related should receive equal shares of the estate. For example, if 4 children are heirs, they each should receive 25% of the estate. Should any of those children be deceased, then their percentage goes into a pool that gets equally divided down to grandchildren.

For example, if the heirs are Jack, Jill, Sam, and Steve. They are all siblings and have a right to 1/4 of the estate. If Jill is already deceased, then her shares would pass on to her children. If she has only one child, then that child would receive the  1/4 percentage. If she has 2 children, then each would receive 1/8 (her 1/4 share divided in 2).

Here’s another possible scenario with the same family. If both Jill and Sam are already deceased, their combined 1/2 share (Jill’es 1/4 + Sam’s 1/4) are then pooled and available to their heirs. If Jill has 2 children and Sam has 1 child, then each of those 3 grandchildren will split the 1/2 share that is available. Sam’s child does not get his full 1/4 share since each generation must share equally.

Why You Should Prepare a Will in MA

As you can see from the above examples, things can get quite complicated when you die without a will. The process of determining heirs and assigning benefits will take place in probate court. What the law dictates may not necessarily be what you would have chosen. However, there would be no record of your preferences without a will. Certain individuals may be completely left out whereas others that you wish to leave out may be included. To ensure that your assets are shared according to your wishes, be sure to have a will prepared.