If you die without a will, your assets will still be given to someone after your death. That is, except for maybe an Egyptian pharaoh or two, your stuff will not be buried with you.
But to whom? And how are those persons determined? And in what proportion?
If you die with assets but with no will, a petition to a MA probate court is likely needed so that the assets you own in your SOLE name can be determined and given to your heirs at law.
The court action would be called a petition for the administration of your estate. Rather than a petition for probate of your will (that doesn't exist), a petition for administration of your estate looks like a petition for probate.
But a MA petition for administration without a will is different.
RETURN To Estate Planning Page
Where will your assets end up?
Many people die in the state of Massachusetts without leaving a signed will. Or any other kind of estate planning documents.
To whom do their assets go to?
It depends on the particular asset in question.
Some assets have a death beneficiary named as part of the paperwork signed when the bank account was opened. Maybe it is a joint bank account with survivorship provision.
Or maybe the asset is life insurance, with a beneficiary always being named in the policy.
Or maybe the asset is an IRA or other retirement account. These types of accounts have a death beneficiary named in a Designation of Beneficiary form.
IF the asset has not joint owner or death beneficiary named, then the asset may be an asset owned at death in Massachusetts in SOLE name of the person.
It is these sole assets that pass through the estate. If a will had been signed, these sole assets go to those the will directed.
If these SOLE assets exist without a will in force, then these SOLE assets go to those persons the law provides for in a special statute.
That statute is the 'Intestacy' statute. It directs the assets to be given to your nearest relatives.
These relatives are called your heirs at law, or sometimes just heirs.
Who are your heirs? It depends on your family situation.
If married, it may be your spouse. If you have children and no spouse, your children may be your heirs.
Your heirs may be both your spouse and your children. And the children from all marriages or non-marriages you've had.
If no spouse or children, maybe your parents are your heirs. And if they are deceased, the other children of your parents may be your heirs - likely your siblings, a brother or sister. Equally.
And if none of the above are living, then maybe the children or grandchildren of a deceased sibling.
If none of the above, maybe your grandparents. And if they are deceased, the children of your grandparents apart from your parents. And if those aunts or uncles are deceased, maybe the children or grandchildren of aunts or uncles.
And if none of the above, likely the state of Massachusetts will get your assets. This is called 'escheat' to the state.
RETURN To Estate Planning Page
If you have estate planning questions or concerns, or would like to get started creating your estate plan, contact the experienced Lexington, Massachusetts estate planning attorneys at MA Wills and Trusts at 781 863-8606 to schedule your consultation. Or contact us at Contact