Last week, our blog started exploring how the intestate distribution scheme works here in Massachusetts in an attempt to encourage otherwise reluctant estate planners. Specifically, we theorized how learning more about how hard-earned assets could possibly be divided among undeserving family members — or perhaps even the state — might be the catalyst that propels people to finally take the necessary action.
To recap, when an individual passes without a will, state law dictates that there are five categories of heirs entitled to their assets, including 1) spouses, 2) descendants (children, stepchildren, etc.), 3) parents, 4) parent’s descendants (siblings) and 5) next of kin.
Property distribution in which the surviving spouse is not the only heir
Things can become significantly more complicated when the deceased’s heirs include more than just their spouse. Indeed, Massachusetts’ intestate distribution scheme provides for three unique scenarios:
- The deceased and their spouse had no children, but the deceased has surviving parent(s): Here, both the surviving spouse and the parent(s) are considered heirs.
- The deceased had children from another relationship, such that the surviving spouse is a stepparent, and may have also had children with the surviving spouse: Here, the surviving spouse and all of the biological children of the deceased — those from the previous relationship and with the surviving spouse — are considered heirs.
- The surviving spouse has children from another relationship, such that the deceased was a stepparent, and may have also had children with the deceased: Here, the surviving spouse and all of the children of the deceased — including biological children and stepchildren — are considered heirs.
We’ll continue exploring this topic in future posts.
If you would like to learn more about your estate planning options, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional who can answer all of your questions and help you work toward securing peace of mind.