What You Need to Know About Massachusetts Inheritance Laws

Massachusetts’s inheritance laws decide the beneficiaries of a decedent’s estate when the decedent passes without a will. Here’s all you need to know about Massachusetts inheritance laws.

A valid testament should contain the decedent’s and two witnesses’ signatures, divided assets, beneficiaries, and an appointed executor. Without a testament, a decedent’s spouse and children receive inheritance priority. If the decedent has no living spouse or children, the court will divide the estate among the decedent’s parents, followed by their siblings.

Testament and Intestacy Laws in Massachusetts

A person who does not want the State to divide their estate according to existing laws must write a valid testament to specify the distribution before their death. The will should list beneficiaries of the estate and an executor to carry out the property division. Massachusetts law states any person over 18 years old with a sound mind may write a will. A testator and two witnesses must sign the testament to be valid. While a testament is still valid if signed by the beneficiaries as witnesses, Massachusetts does not allow the beneficiaries to claim property under the testament if they act as witnesses.

A person dies intestate if they do not write a valid will before death. Massachusetts’s intestacy laws decide inheritance based on the decedent’s line of succession. The probate process tends to be longer and more expensive when there is no will to name all desired heirs. Courts assign executors to distribute the estate for people who die intestate.

Related: Massachusetts Consent Laws: Updated 2022

Intestate laws do not affect assets such as:

Spousal Inheritance Laws in Massachusetts

The decedent’s spouse is entitled to the entire estate if the decedent has no living parents or children. A spouse receives the whole estate if all the decedent’s children come from the marriage.

If the spouse or decedent has children outside the marriage, the spouse receives the first $100,000 of the estate and half the balance. Courts will divide the remaining part of the estate equally between the children.

The spouse receives the first $200,00 and half of the balance when the decedent has no living descendants but still has surviving parents. The decedent’s parents will receive the amount of the estate left over after the spouse receives their share.

Sibling Inheritance Laws in Massachusetts

Massachusetts courts will divide the unmarried decedent with no children’s estate between the decedent’s extended family members. Siblings in Massachusetts will only inherit a decedent’s estate if the decedent has no living parents, spouse, or children. The estate will be split evenly between the decedent’s siblings. Half siblings have the same right to the estate as full siblings.

The nearest relative in the line of succession will receive the estate if the decedent has no living siblings. The estate will become state property if there are no suitable relatives.

Inheritance Rights of Children in Massachusetts

Massachusetts law does not allow children born from the decedent’s most recent marriage to inherit the estate. If the children do not belong to the decedent’s spouse, the children will inherit the remaining part of the estate after the decedent’s spouse receives the first $100,000 and half of the balance.

The decedent’s children will inherit the entire estate if the decedent has no living spouse. Each child will receive an equal share of the estate.

Related: Consent Laws By State: Updated 2022

Intestate succession in Massachusetts does not recognize inheritance rights of grandchildren unless the decedent’s child has died. Stepchildren and foster children do not have inheritance rights unless the decedent adopts them. The decedent’s child loses their right to inherit the estate if they are in the adoption system or another person adopted them.

FAQs About Massachusetts Inheritance Laws

If my daughter died, will my son-in-law inherit my estate in Massachusetts?

If a decedent’s daughter dies, their son-in-law will not inherit the estate in Massachusetts. The decedent’s grandchildren will inherit the share of the estate meant for the decedent’s child. If the decedent’s deceased child from a partner outside their marriage has no descendants, the court will distribute the leftover estate among the decedent’s closest relatives.

What are the requirements for an executor in Massachusetts?

Executors must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. Massachusetts law allows executors to reside outside the state and have felony convictions. A probate court may reject an executor if their appointment goes against the state’s best interest, in which case the court will hold a hearing for a new executor.

Can posthumous relatives inherit an estate in Massachusetts?

A decedent’s relative who was conceived before the death but born after is still eligible to inherit the estate.

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