When you die without a will or have an invalid will, the courts will determine heirs based on Massachusetts intestate succession laws. Think of it as a formula based on whether you are married, have children and/or have other living relatives. Here are some common scenarios.

Single Without Children

If you are not married and have no children, your parents will inherit your estate. This is assuming they are living. Otherwise, your siblings will share your assets equally. Half siblings are treated the same as full siblings.

Married, with Children

In cases where you have children, your assets will be split between your spouse and children. Your spouse will receive the first $100,000 plus half of whatever remains. The other half will be shared equally among your children. It’s important to note that this applies whether the children are with your current spouse or from previous relationships. Legally adopted children receive the same benefits as biological children.

As an example, let’s assume you have one million in total assets and 3 children. Your spouse will receive $1000,000 plus $450,000. Your children will split the remaining $450,000 and receive $150,000 each.

Married, Without Children

Most people assume that if they’re married, their spouse will inherit everything. This isn’t necessarily true. If you’re married but have no children, grandchildren, etc., but your parents are living, then both your spouse and parents will receive an inheritance. Your spouse will receive $200,000 plus two-thirds of the remaining assets.

Using the same million dollar figure from above, your spouse will receive $200,000 plus $533,333, so $733,333 total. The remaining $266,667 will go to your parents.

More on Massachusetts Intestate Succession Laws

These are just a few common examples of the distribution of assets under Massachusetts intestate succession laws. There are many more possible scenarios such as your spouse having children from a previous marriage, children born after your death, deceased children but living grandchildren, children placed for adoption, etc. Rather than relying on the logic of the law to determine your heirs, you can do so yourself with an estate plan. Also, it’s worth noting that not all assets pass through probate. Some, like life insurance policies, have direct beneficiaries unless you make arrangements otherwise. Understanding the intricacies of asset classes and which pass-thru versus bypass probate can be confusing. Be sure to work with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney to get all of your assets in order. Contact our team to schedule a free consultation.