A guide to Massachusetts probate laws.
Anyone at least 18 years old of “sound mind” can write a will in Massachusetts.
Every will must be signed by two witnesses of general competence.
Yes, but unless there are two other disinterested witnesses the inheritance may be void.
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Age of executor: At least 18 years old
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.
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.
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 parents||Everything|
|Children with the surviving spouse||Everything|
|Parent(s), but no children||The first $200,000, plus 3/4 of the intestate estate|
|Children with the surviving spouse and children with someone else||The first $100,000, plus 1/2 of the intestate estate|
|Children with someone else||The 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
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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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.
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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Elissa Suh is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has researched and written extensively about finance and insurance since 2019, with an emphasis in esate planning and mortgages. Her writing has been cited by MarketWatch, CNBC, and Betterment.
Elissa has a B.A. in Film Studies from Barnard College.
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