What happens to my family if I die without an estate plan in MA?

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2024 | Estate Administration & Probate |

The death of a loved one is always a difficult time for families. This is made more complicated when there is no estate plan in place, especially in Massachusetts. Understanding the consequences can help families manage the situation more effectively, and hopefully, drive the point home that everyone needs an estate plan.

Intestacy laws and asset distribution

If a Massachusetts resident dies without an estate plan, intestacy laws dictate how assets are distributed. These laws determine who inherits the estate based on familial relationships. For example, if the deceased is survived by a spouse and children, the estate is divided among them according to specific legal formulas. Real estate and other jointly held properties may bypass probate and pass directly to the co-owner.

Implications for children and spouses

Children, especially minors, may face uncertainty regarding their inheritance. Minors’ shares are typically held in trust until they reach adulthood. A surviving spouse might inherit the entire estate if there are no surviving descendants or parents. However, if there are surviving descendants from outside the marriage, the spouse’s share is reduced.

Single individuals’ estates

For single individuals, the estate is usually distributed to the closest living relatives, such as parents or siblings. If no relatives can be located, the state may claim the assets.


Dying without an estate plan in Massachusetts can significantly impact asset distribution and the financial well-being of the surviving family members. Although the state provides a legal framework for asset distribution, it may not reflect the deceased’s wishes. Understanding these laws is crucial for families navigating this difficult time, and for those that have yet to draft their estate plan.



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