What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Massachusetts?

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended solely for informational purposes and should not be used for legal purposes.

Creating a will is an essential step. It ensures that all your assets are distributed as per your wishes.

However, not everyone takes this step, and sometimes individuals pass away without a will, a situation known as dying intestate.

This lack of a will can lead to complexities and uncertainties in asset distribution.

In Massachusetts, intestate succession laws come into play.

It governs what happens if you die without a will in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Massachusetts? – Intestate Succession Laws in Massachusetts

Intestate succession laws vary by state; in Massachusetts, these laws determine how an individual’s estate is distributed. 

This will be if they die without a will. It can be found in the Massachusetts Legislature.

Relationship To DeceasedDistribution Of Assets (%)Share (%)
Surviving Spouse OnlySpouse inherits the first $200,000 of the estate, plus 75% of the remaining balance; Parents inherit the remainder.100%
Surviving Spouse and Descendants (children or their descendants)Spouse inherits the first $200,000 of the estate, plus 75% of the remaining balance; Descendants inherit the remainderSpouse: First $200,000 + 75% of the balance; Descendants: Remainder based on number of descendants
Surviving Spouse and ParentsSpouse inherits the first $100,000 of the estate, plus 50% of the remaining balance; Siblings inherit the remainder.Spouse: First $200,000 + 75% of the balance; Parents: Remainder
Surviving Spouse and SiblingsSpouse inherits the first $100,000 of the estate, plus 50% of the remaining balance; Siblings inherit the remainderSpouse: First $100,000 + 50% of the balance; Siblings: Remainder divided equally among siblings
No Surviving Spouse, Descendants OnlyDescendants inherit the entire estate, divided equally among themEqual shares among descendants
No Surviving Spouse, Parents OnlyParents inherit the entire estate, divided equally between themEqual shares among parents
No Surviving Spouse, Siblings OnlySiblings inherit the entire estate, divided equally among themEqual shares among siblings
No Surviving Spouse, No Descendants, Parents, or SiblingsOther relatives inherit the estate according to the Massachusetts intestate succession lawsAs per Massachusetts intestate succession laws

The laws prioritize close family members, providing a structured framework for asset distribution.

Spouse’s Share:

The deceased person is survived by a spouse but no children, parents, or siblings.

The entire estate typically goes to the surviving spouse.

The deceased has children from the surviving spouse.

In this case, the spouse receives the first $200,000 of the estate and three-quarters of the remaining balance.

The rest is divided equally among the children.

The estate is divided equally among the children if there’s no surviving spouse.

Children’s Share:

The deceased has children but no surviving spouse.

Here, the estate is divided equally among the children.

A child predeceases the deceased but has children of their own (the deceased’s grandchildren.)

The deceased child’s share is divided among their children.

Parents’ Share:

There’s no surviving spouse or children.

The estate goes to the deceased person’s parents in equal shares.

If only one parent survives, then that parent receives the entire estate.

Siblings’ Share:

There are no surviving spouses, children, or parents.

The estate is divided equally among the deceased person’s siblings.

Grandparents And Their Descendants:

If no immediate family members survive, the estate is divided equally among the deceased person’s grandparents.

It also includes their descendants if the grandparents are deceased.

No Heirs:

If there are no surviving family members, the estate may escheat to the state of Massachusetts.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Massachusetts? – The Probate Process In Massachusetts for Intestate Estates

Probate is the legal process.

The court validates a deceased person’s will (if one exists.)

It oversees the distribution of their estate according to intestate succession laws.

It is in the cases where there’s no will.

The process involves several steps to ensure a fair and legal distribution of assets.

1. Initiation Of The Probate Process:

The probate process begins when an interested party files a petition to initiate Probate.

This will be in the appropriate Massachusetts Probate and Family Court.

The court will appoint an administrator to manage the estate if there’s no will.

2. Appointment Of An Administrator:

In intestacy cases where there is no will or no appointed executor, the court appoints an administrator to handle the estate.

The court usually selects a family member or another interested party who petitions for the role.

It is a way of knowing what happens if you die without a will in Massachusetts.

3. Notification To Creditors And Interested Parties:

The court ensures that appropriate notices are issued to notify potential creditors.

This will be once the probate process is initiated.

This way, the interested parties know about the probate proceedings.

This notification is critical to allow creditors to make claims against the estate.

Inventory And Appraisal of Assets:

The appointed administrator creates a comprehensive inventory of the deceased person’s assets.

It includes real estate, bank accounts, personal property, investments, and other relevant assets.

These assets need to be appraised to determine their value.

Debts And Liabilities Settlement:

The administrator settles the deceased person’s debts, liabilities, and taxes.

He also settles the other outstanding obligations from the estate’s assets.

This step is crucial to ensure the estate is solvent before distributing assets to heirs.

It also helps in knowing what happens if you die without a will in Massachusetts.

Distribution Of The Estate According To Intestate Laws:

By Massachusetts intestate succession laws, the remaining estate is distributed among the deceased person’s heirs after settling debts and liabilities.

The distribution follows a specific hierarchy outlined by state law.

It considers surviving spouses, children, parents, siblings, and other relatives.

Court Approval And Confirmation:

The court oversees the distribution process and ensures it complies with intestate succession laws.

Once the court is satisfied with the proposed distribution plan, it approves it.

It also confirms the administrator’s actions.

Final Accounting And Closing Of The Estate:

The administrator provides a final accounting of all transactions.

He details how the assets were distributed and how debts and liabilities were settled.

The court reviews this accounting to ensure accuracy and compliance with legal requirements.

If everything is in order, the court officially closes the probate case.

This way, you know what happens if you die without a will in Massachusetts.

Transferring Assets To Heirs:

The assets are transferred to the respective heirs following court approval and confirmation.

It is based on the intestate succession laws.

Each heir receives their designated estate share according to the inheritance hierarchy.

Record Keeping:

Throughout the probate process, the court and the appointed administrator maintain detailed records of all transactions.

This includes all the legal documents and communications related to the estate.

These records are essential for legal and financial purposes.

Understanding the probate process for intestate estates in Massachusetts is crucial for individuals and their families.

Consulting with an estate planning attorney provides guidance.

Ultimately, this helps to understand what happens if you die without a will in Massachusetts.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In Massachusetts? – Challenges And Considerations

Knowing what happens if you die without a will in Massachusetts can reveal several challenges.

These are for the deceased person’s estate and their surviving family members.

Here are some key challenges and considerations to keep in mind:

Asset Distribution: 

Without a will, the deceased person’s assets are distributed according to Massachusetts intestate succession laws.

This may not align with the individual’s wishes.

It potentially leads to assets going to beneficiaries.

They did not intend to benefit or exclude individuals they intended to provide for.

This lack of control over asset distribution can be a significant challenge.

So, this way, you learn what happens if you die without a will in Massachusetts.

Complex Family Dynamics: 

In cases of intestacy, complex family dynamics can emerge.

Disputes among family members regarding asset distribution may arise.

It leads to costly and emotionally draining legal battles.

These disputes can strain relationships and create lasting conflicts within the family.

Surviving Spouse’s Share: 

Massachusetts law generally prioritizes surviving spouses in intestate succession.

The specific rules for asset distribution can be complex.

It is especially true when children from previous marriages or relationships are involved.

Determining the proper distribution of assets can lead to disputes.

Children’s Share: 

If the deceased person has children from different relationships, dividing assets among them can become challenging.

Determining the appropriate distribution can be contentious.

It is particularly challenging if there is ambiguity or disagreement about who qualifies as a legal child of the deceased.

Minor Children: 

The court may appoint guardianship without a will if minor children are involved.

He will specify the deceased person’s preferences.

This can lead to uncertainty regarding who will care for and make decisions on behalf of the children.

Creditor Claims: 

During the probate process, creditors can submit claims against the estate.

Settling these debts can reduce the assets available for distribution to beneficiaries.

It potentially affects the inheritances of the deceased person’s loved ones.

Privacy Concerns: 

Probate is a public process and information about the deceased person’s assets.

It also includes debts, and beneficiaries become a matter of public record.

This lack of confidentiality can be a concern for individuals who value privacy.

Estate Administration Costs: 

The probate process involves various administrative expenses.

It includes court fees, legal fees, and other administrative costs.

These expenses can reduce the estate’s overall value, leaving less for beneficiaries.

Lengthy Probate Process: 

The process of Probate can be time-consuming.

It often takes months or even years to complete.

This can cause delays in beneficiaries receiving their inheritances.

It may lead to frustration among family members.

Escheat To The State: 

If no surviving family members are found, the deceased person’s estate may be escheated to the state of Massachusetts.

This means that the state will take possession of the assets.

Ensuring that your assets are distributed to intended beneficiaries can prevent this outcome.

Estate Planning Implications: 

One of the significant considerations is the importance of estate planning.

Failing to create a will or establish other estate planning tools, such as trusts.

It can lead to unintended consequences.

A clear and legally valid estate plan is essential for properly distributing assets.

Legal Guidance: 

Navigating the complexities of intestate succession and the probate process can be challenging without legal guidance.

Engaging an experienced estate planning attorney can ensure the process is correctly carried out.

Also, the deceased person’s wishes are upheld to the extent possible under the law.


In conclusion, dying without a will in Massachusetts triggers intestate succession laws.

It determines how your estate will be distributed among your surviving family members.

The probate process is essential in validating the estate and ensuring the orderly distribution of assets according to these laws.

Seeking professional legal guidance and establishing a clear estate plan.

This can help safeguard your intentions and provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

So, the above guide helps to learn what happens if you die without a will in Massachusetts.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What Are the Consequences Of Dying Without A Will In Massachusetts?

Dying without a will in Massachusetts means that the estate will be distributed as per the state’s intestacy laws.

It does not align with your preferences.

2. Who Inherits The Estate if I Die Without A Will In Massachusetts?

The state’s intestate succession laws determine the inheritance. Typically, it goes to a surviving spouse, children, parents, or other relatives in a specific order.

3. What Happens To My Assets If B Spouse Survives Me But No Children In Massachusetts?

If you have a surviving spouse but no children, the spouse usually inherits the entire estate under Massachusetts law.

4. How Is The Estate Distributed If I Have Children And No Surviving Spouse In Massachusetts?

In this scenario, your children would typically inherit your estate equally.

5. Can Unmarried Partners Inherit From Each Other’s Estate In Massachusetts?

Unmarried partners do not inherit from each other’s estates if there is no valid will in Massachusetts; only legal spouses are eligible for intestate inheritance.

6. What If I Have No Surviving Spouse, Children, Parents, Or Siblings In Massachusetts?

If you have no surviving spouse or descendant, your estate may go to more distant relatives, or if none are found, it might escheat to the state.

7. How Is The Guardian For Minor Children Determined If I Die Without A Will In Massachusetts?

The court will appoint a guardian for your minor children based on the best interests of the children and any expressed preferences you may have stated.

8. How Can I Ensure My Estate Is Distributed According To My Wishes In Massachusetts?

To ensure your estate is distributed per your preferences, creating a valid and comprehensive will with the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney in Massachusetts is crucial.

Terry L. Crump

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