A will is a useful estate planning tool for a Massachusetts resident who wishes to clearly identify their assets and the parties they wish to receive it after they pass on. Wills must conform to certain legal requirements, and before an individual prepares a will they may wish to discuss their plans and desires with an attorney who practices estate planning law. As with all of the posts on this blog, this post does not provide any legal advice to its readers.
However, it is not uncommon for individuals to pass away before they have drafted or executed their wills. When a person dies without a will, their end-of-life estate passes through a set of laws called intestate succession. Intestate succession is a schedule of relations and evaluations that outlines what and to whom the estate of a decedent should pass.
In Massachusetts, like in other states throughout the nation, intestate succession attempts to provide closely related relatives with inheritance rights before more distant family members. For example, if a person dies intestate and is married, their spouse may inherit the bulk of the decedent’s estate. This will vary depending on if the decedent had children from other relationships and other factors.
While intestate succession does provide a reasonable outline for how an individual may have wanted their estate distributed, it cannot account for the preferences, desires, and convictions of individuals who would want their estates divided on different terms. Without a will, an individual could not disinherit a child or leave the bulk of their estate to a charity.
The best way to protect one’s estate distribution intentions is to prepare a sound estate planning toolkit that can include a valid will. The preparation of a will is important to ensuring an individual’s wishes are met, and an estate planning attorney can help during this process.