Every Massachusetts resident has the right to determine who will receive his or her assets after death. As part of any estate plan, a will is executed that alerts the court and family members that a plan is in place for the disposition of an individual's property after death. However, if wills are not properly executed, they might not be valid when they are needed.
Every state, including Massachusetts, has certain rules and laws regarding how wills need to be executed. First, the testator, who is the person making the will, needs to be an adult. It is also crucial that the individual fully understands the contents of the will. The document needs to be signed in front of witnesses who could be called upon later to testify that it was not signed under duress and the testator was not coerced into signing it. The signature must also be notarized for the same purpose.
Once the will is fully and properly executed, it will be considered valid. However, it can be revoked by another will, as long as the second will is also executed in accordance with state law. Wills can be amended by a document called a codicil, which is used when only a part of the will needs to be changed, while the rest of it remains valid.
Wills that are not properly executed could be ruled invalid by the court after the death of the testator. If that happens, the states intestacy laws might be used to distributed the decedent's property. Therefore, those assets could end up being inherited by persons who the testator never intended to receive them.
Source: estate.findlaw.com, "Estate Administration: The Will After Death", Accessed on July 9, 2016