How to make a will in Massachusetts

A guide to Massachusetts probate laws.


Elissa Suh

Published June 12, 2020

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Who can write a will in Massachusetts?

Anyone at least 18 years old of “sound mind” can write a will in Massachusetts.

What are the requirements for witnessing a will in Massachusetts?

Every will must be signed by two witnesses of general competence.

Can witnesses be beneficiaries of the will in Massachusetts?

Yes, but unless there are two other disinterested witnesses the inheritance may be void.


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What are the requirements for nominating an executor in Massachusetts?

  • Age of executor: At least 18 years old

Can you create a holographic will in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts does not explicitly forbid handwritten wills (called “holographic wills” when not signed by witnesses). However, in order for your handwritten will to be valid, it must be signed and witnessed properly.

Is Massachusetts a community property state?

No, Massachusetts is not a community property state.

In a community property state, each spouse has an equal share of property acquired during the marriage. Property acquired before the marriage is considered separate property.

Laws of intestacy in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, when there is no will, the court will determine who receives the intestate estate based on the laws of intestate succession.

This is how much a surviving spouse receives in a few different circumstances:

If the decedent is survived by a spouse and:Surviving spouse's share
No children or parentsEverything
Children with the surviving spouseEverything
Parent(s), but no childrenThe first $200,000, plus 3/4 of the intestate estate
Children with the surviving spouse and children with someone elseThe first $100,000, plus 1/2 of the intestate estate
Children with someone elseThe first $100,000, plus 1/2 of the intestate estate

Otherwise, when there is no surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along in the following order:

  • Children, or their children
  • Parents
  • Siblings of the decedent, or their children
  • Next of kin as decided by civil law

The way this works, is that for someone to receive the estate, there must not be anyone left in the category above them. If an inheritor is dead, then their share typically passes to their children by a per capita at each generation designation.

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Filing the will in Massachusetts

Before the testator’s death, a will may be filed with the court for safekeeping. After the testator’s death, the will should be filed with probate and family court in the county where the decedent died or owned property.

Estate administration without probate in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, estates can be administered voluntarily without court procedure whether or not the decedent had a will, as long as the following conditions are met:

  • The estate is valued at $25,000 or less (excluding the value of a car)
  • 30 days must have passed since the decedent’s death and no other probate proceedings have been initiated
  • The decedent was a resident of Massachusetts

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About the author

Personal Finance Editor

Elissa Suh

Personal Finance Editor

Elissa is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She writes about estate planning, mortgages, and occasionally health insurance. In the past she has written about film and music.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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