The death of a loved one can be shocking if they passed suddenly, such as in an accident or a brief illness. You may experience another shock when you find out your loved one did not leave behind a will or other parts of an estate plan. Without a properly crafted plan, there is no legally permissible way to know how the deceased wanted to distribute their assets.
Dying without a will in Massachusetts
When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” Because there is no valid will, Massachusetts law determines who inherits the estate. If the deceased was married, most often spouse inherits the entire estate. However, if one or both of the deceased’s parents are still alive, the spouse receives the first $200,000 of the estate plus 3/4 of the remaining balance, with the rest going to the parent(s).
Having stepchildren can also complicate matters. Descendants of the deceased who are not descendants of the surviving spouse are entitled to half of the estate after the first $100,000. If the deceased was not married when they died, the estate goes to the children; if they did not have surviving children, it goes to the surviving parents; if no surviving parents, then the parents’ descendants (i.e., siblings) inherit.
Why everyone needs an estate plan
Intestate law tries to assume what the deceased would like to have done with their assets. But only you know for sure who you would like to be your heirs. To make sure your estate is settled the way you want – and minimize estate taxes – you need to make sure you have an estate plan. Even people with relatively few assets owe it to themselves and their families to take care of this.
To know about all the things you can include in your plan, talk to an experienced estate planning attorney.