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What happens if you die without a will?

On Behalf of | Mar 26, 2024 | Wills

Dying without a will in Massachusetts places your estate into a process called “intestate” succession. This means that instead of your personal wishes dictating the distribution of your assets, state laws will make those decisions. Many people wrongly believe that the state takes everything if someone dies without a will.

However, Massachusetts has intestacy laws specifically designed to distribute assets among the deceased’s relatives in a manner deemed fair by the state. These laws act as a fallback for those who have not prepared an estate plan, avoiding the possibility of the deceased’s estate ending up in a state of uncertainty.

Distribution of assets

The law first looks to the surviving spouse and children. If you leave a spouse but no children or parents, your spouse inherits everything. The division of assets among your children depends on whether they are also your spouse’s children. If yes, then your spouse still inherits everything. If not, and you have children from another relationship, your spouse and children will divide your assets.

Finding no direct heirs

If you leave no surviving spouse, children or parents, the estate moves to more distant relatives in a specified order: siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. If the state finds no relatives, the estate eventually reverts to the state itself.

The intestacy laws act as a net but cannot consider personal relationships or specific wishes. The laws aim to mimic a typical person’s desired asset distribution, focusing on providing for the immediate family, but they cannot recognize friends, unmarried partners or charities as beneficiaries. Making a will gives you power to decide who gets your assets and can prevent potential stress and disputes among those you care about after your passing.


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