What Happens If I Die In Massachusetts Without A Will?

A living will sets forth an individual’s wishes about how assets are to be distributed after death.  However, if an individual dies without a will, Massachusetts intestate laws will determine who inherits their probate property. This means it does not matter whether a decedent wanted (or did not want) specific individuals to inherit their property, as the administrator of the estate must distribute the estate according to the law.

When you are making future arrangements for your loved ones, it is critical to ensure nothing is left up to chance.  By having a comprehensive estate plan, you can dictate where your hard-earned assets will be distributed, allowing you to ensure loved ones are protected after you pass.  Call today to schedule a free initial consultation with experienced Jamaica Plain Estate Planning lawyer Bob Grodberg.

Do I Need A Will If I Have A Trust?

Yes!  If an individual does not create a will but has a trust, the assets owned by the trust will be managed and distributed according to the trust.  Assets not in a trust will be distributed according to Massachusetts intestate law.  If there are no non-trust assets other considerations may require that a will be executed.

Even if an individual places most assets in a trust, there may be residual property (such as forgotten bank accounts) that are not made part of a trust during life. Thus, a pour-over will may be needed to ensure all assets are transferred upon death.

Who Will Inherit My Property Under Massachusetts Intestacy Laws?

Massachusetts law outlines who among your family will inherit your property if you pass without a will.  The following is a summary of who is entitled to collect:

Family MemberInheritable Portion of the Estate
Spouse, but no dependents or parents


100% to spouse


Spouse and all children who are descendants of decedent and spouse


100% to spouse


Surviving children but no spouse


100% equally split among the children


Parents (no surviving spouse or children)


100% to parents


There are other statutes that specify who should inherit in other circumstances.

When individuals die without a will (intestate), they effectively forfeit the right to decide what happens to estate assets.  They also potentially give us the right to determine who will oversee the probate of their estate.  If these decisions are of importance to you, it is critical to act now to develop a will that will ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

Which Assets Can Pass Through Intestate Succession?

Any assets that can be passed through a will are affected by Massachusetts intestate succession laws.  Typically, this includes assets you own alone, in your own name.  However, there are many assets that do not pass through a will, including:

  • Property transferred to a trust
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • IRA, 401K, or other retirement benefits
  • Securities in a transfer-on-death account
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Property owned in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety

Such assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or a named beneficiary (regardless of whether a last will and testament exists).

Can I Tell My Children Who Should Inherit My Assets Instead of Creating a Will?

Many parents believe that they don’t need a will or trust because they believe their children can simply divide their assets, especially if the children all get along well.  However, there are many potential problems that can arise, as well as additional costs that may be needlessly incurred in these situations.  For example:

  • Without a will or trust, you can’t direct the distribution of personal property items among their beneficiaries.  Conflicts can arise among surviving children, particularly over items with sentimental value.  A will can specifically direct who gets what assets, helping to avoid any unnecessary disputes.
  • Children may not be told the same information about property division. A parent may tell one child they are to inherit a specific piece of property (e.g., a diamond ring); later, the parent may inform another child that they will receive the same jewelry, creating a dispute.  One of the most desirable ways to avoid these types of disputes is to precisely and, in a legally enforceable way, direct who gets what through a will or trust.
  • A child may forget your wishes. After many years, it can be difficult to recall specific details, such as who will inherit an asset. Having a will can prevent this from happening by clearly delineating (in writing) who is entitled to what property.

Many family conflicts can be avoided through the creation of a will.  Don’t place your family at odds with each other; instead, let experienced Jamaica Plain Estate Planning attorney Bob Grodberg create a customized estate plan that meets your desires and objectives.

Schedule A Free Initial Consultation with An Experienced Jamaica Plains Estate Planning Attorney Today!

Unfortunately, conflicts and disputes over assets can quickly arise when an individual dies intestate.  To ensure that your loved ones are not put through unnecessary heartache and family drama, we encourage you to call our office to schedule a free initial consultation.  Firm-founding attorney Bob Grodberg can listen to your objectives, explain your legal options, and help you formulate a pragmatic estate plan effecting the distribution of your assets in the best manner possible.