What If I Die Without A Will?

When discussing estate planning, I often hear the remark “I don’t need a Will”.  Many think that they don’t have a large enough estate, or that everything will automatically pass to their spouse.  That is not always the case.

If you die without a Will, Massachusetts law will control how your property will be distributed.  After payment of debts, expenses, administration and funeral costs, your property will be distributed as follows:

  • If the deceased leaves kindred but no children, the surviving spouse will get the first $200,000, plus one-half of the remaining personal and real property.  The balance will go to the kindred.
  • If the deceased leaves children, the surviving spouse will get one-half of the real and personal property and the balance will go to the children.
  • If the deceased leaves children but no spouse, all real and personal property will be distributed to the children.
  • If the deceased dies with no children or kindred, the surviving spouse will take all real and personal property.
  • If the deceased leaves no spouse, children or kindred, the estate passes to the Commonwealth.

Unless you have a valid Will at death, the State will determine exactly who receives your property.  Having a Will ensures that you, not the State, choose who receives your property.

Updating Your Will After the Birth of a Child

The birth of a child will bring many changes to your family’s lifestyle and added responsibilities.  In a perfect world, parents will guide their children as they grow older and have children of their own. As this world is not a perfect one, parents must plan for the unforeseen and choose a person to care for their children should something happen to them.

One of the responsibilities of a parent is naming a guardian to step in and raise their children if necessary.  Drafting a Will will allow you to do this.   Choosing who to name as guardian can be a difficult choice, but is one that must be made or will be made by others who may not know your family or your wishes.   Naming a guardian in your Will ensures that you, not the court system, will have the opportunity to choose that person.  You should choose, however, a person that has similar beliefs and ideas and will respect your wishes on how to raise your child.  Discussing your choice and keeping an open line of communication should ease the transition if a guardian is needed to care for your child.