We often hear people asking, “Do I really need a will?” and the short answer is yes. A will is not just a legal document that decides who gets your property when you die, it is your way of ensuring that your family and loved ones do not face unnecessary complications during an already difficult time. In this blog post, we will explore what happens to your assets and who takes care of them if you have not prepared a will.
Intestacy Laws Take Over: Understanding Massachusetts Rules
When a Massachusetts resident dies without a will, their estate becomes “intestate,” which means that Massachusetts state law will decide how your property is distributed. The laws are designed to give your closest relatives a share of your assets, but these laws may not align with your specific wishes. For example, your spouse and children are the first in line, but if you do not have a spouse or children, then your assets will go to your parents, siblings, or other next of kin.
The Role of the Probate Court in Massachusetts
Once you pass away without a will, the probate court steps in to appoint an administrator for your estate. Typically, this is a spouse or a close relative, but the court makes the final decision. This person will then be responsible for paying off debts, taxes, and distributing assets according to state law. Having a court-appointed administrator can sometimes create friction within families, especially when more than one person feels they should be in charge of the process.
Spousal Rights: How Does Dying Without a Will Affect Your Spouse?
In Massachusetts, if you die intestate and have a spouse but no children, your spouse inherits everything. If you have children, then the inheritance gets a little more complex. Your spouse would get the first $100,000 of the estate and half of the remaining assets. The other half would be divided equally among your children. This might not be the ideal distribution for many families, especially those with young children or special needs.
Impact on Children: Guardianship and Financial Distribution
When you die without a will, you also lose the opportunity to nominate a guardian for your minor children. The court will appoint a guardian, and it may not be the person you would have chosen. Moreover, your children would inherit your assets at the age of 18, which might not be the most financially responsible age to do so. A will allows you to set conditions on inheritance, something that is not possible under intestacy.
A Complex Scenario: Unmarried Partners, Friends, and Charities
Unmarried partners, friends, and charities that you may want to leave money to are not entitled to anything if you die without a will. This is why creating a will is critical, especially if you have people and causes outside of your immediate family that you want to support after you are gone.
Avoid Unnecessary Legal Complications
Dying without a will not only means that your assets might not be distributed the way you would like, but it can also lead to unnecessary legal complications for your loved ones. This can be time-consuming and emotionally draining, and in some instances, it can lead to family disputes and legal battles.
Work with the Compassionate Attorneys at Casey Lundregan Burns to Prepare Your Will
The decisions that you will record in your will require careful consideration. With over 80 years of experience helping families find their best way forward, the Casey Lundregan Burns team guides you through decisions to prepare a will that is intended to ensure your wishes are followed. To learn more, talk to us today. We can help you every step of the way, so please get in touch to schedule your case evaluation online or contact us at (978) 878-3519.