Massachusetts law about wills and estates

A compilation of laws, cases, and web sources on wills and estates in Massachusetts.

If you are unable to find the information you are looking for, or if you have a specific question, please contact our law librarians for assistance.

Table of Contents

Best bets for estate administration

MUPC estate administration procedural guide, Administrative Office of the Probate and Family Court, 2016. 
This in-depth manual "contains a wealth of information and a detailed description of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code and how it is to be implemented in the Probate and Family Court."

Probate and Family Court MUPC hub
Includes links to forms, training material, rules, and more.

Massachusetts laws

Uniform probate code

Uniform Probate Code, MGL c.190B (MUPC)
Laws of intestate succession, estate administration, and much more.

Without a will

MGL c.190B, §§ 2-101 et seq. Descent and distribution of real and personal property
MGL c.190B, Article III Probate of wills and administration: includes the laws for administering both intestate and testate estates

With a will

MGL c.190B, §§ 2-501 et seq. Wills
MGL c.190B, Article III Probate of wills and administration
MGL c.191, § 15 Elective share: a spouse can choose to waive the provisions of a will and take a specified share of the estate instead
MGL c.191B Uniform statutory will act

Claims against an Estate

MGL c.190B, §§ 3-803 Limitations on presentation of claims
Note: Notice of Claim forms can be obtained from your local Probate and Family Court.

Selected cases

Ciani v. MacGrath, 481 Mass. 174 (2019)
"To the extent a surviving spouse's shares of the decedent's estate exceed $25,000, § 15 reduces his or her interest in the real property from outright ownership to a life estate."

"As a practical matter, § 15 is unwieldly and perplexing to apply in most instances. ... In addition, it is "woefully inadequate to satisfy modern notions of a decedent spouse's obligation to support the surviving spouse or modern notions of marital property," ..., and, although not visited in detail here, the history of the statute leaves no doubt that it is decidedly gendered.... In short, the statute is in desperate need of an update and we urge the Legislature to do so."

Forms

Wills, estates and trust forms, Probate and Family Court.

  • Note: There is no official Massachusetts will form, and we cannot ensure the accuracy of sample wills available on the public internet. We are happy to supply sample wills and forms from our legal resources, but we are unable to link to them here. Please contact the Trial Court Law Library location closest to you or email masslawlib@gmail.com for sample wills. When requesting, please provide the following information: if you are married and/or if you have children.

Fees

Uniform schedule of fees, Mass. Trial Court.

Request for limited issues settlement conference, together with Guidelines for participation, Mass. Probate and Family Court Dept.
Free pilot program designed to settle cases where the majority of the contested issues have already been resolved.

Web sources

Estate planning 

Wills and estates administration 

  • Ajemian v. Yahoo!, 478 Mass. 169 (2017)
    The "Stored Communications Act (SCA), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 et seq., does not prohibit... Yahoo from disclosing to the personal representatives of an estate the electronic mail (e-mail) messages in the decedent's account." 
  • Conflicts, competence and confidentiality in will drafting, Mass. Board of Bar Overseers.
    "When a lawyer is consulted to prepare a will for a testator, the fact that the lawyer also represents a potential beneficiary can create other issues that may also require attention, depending upon the circumstances."
  • Get a copy of a will, Mass. Court System.
    Find out what the process is for requesting and receiving a copy of a will
  • Procedural advisory on estate administration matters, Probate and Family Court Department, October 26, 2012
    Provides a general summary of changes to the MUPC as a result of St.2012, c.140, signed July 8, 2012. Forms are included in the court's main Wills, estates and trusts forms page.

Intestacy (dying without a will)

  • Cosgrove v. Hughes, 78 Mass. App. Ct. 739 (2011)
    "If a decedent has acknowledged paternity of a person born out of wedlock . . . that person is heir of his father." The child does not have to prove a biological connection.
  • Degrees of kinship chart, Mass. Probate and Family Court.
  • Digital assets and intestacy, BU J. Sci. & Tech. L. (2015)
    Discusses the current state of the law regarding digital assets, and argues that "legislation is needed to authorize legal ways of managing these assets and to clarify the rights of heirs to access such assets."
  • Intestate succession in Massachusetts. Nolo.com.
    What happens if you die without a will? "If you die without a will in Massachusetts, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state 'intestate succession' laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Massachusetts."

Print sources

8 ways to avoid probate by Mary Randolph, Nolo, 2022.

Complete guide to planning your estate in Massachusetts, Atlantic Publishing, 2011.

Drafting estate plans under the new MUPC and the new MUTC, MCLE, 2013.

Drafting wills and trusts in Massachusetts, 5th ed., MCLE, loose-leaf.

Estate planning basics by Denis Clifford, Nolo, 2022.

Estate planning for blended families : providing for your spouse & children in a second marriage by Richard E. Barnes, Nolo, 2009.

Estate planning for the aging or incapacitated client in Massachusetts5th ed., MCLE, 2021, loose leaf.

The executor's guide : settling a loved one's estate or trust by Randolph, Nolo, 2021.

Get it together : organize your records so your family won't have to, by Melanie Cullen, Nolo, 2020.

IRAs, 401(k)s & other retirement plans : strategies for taking your money out, by Twila Slesnick, Nolo, [2021].

Massachusetts estate planning, will drafting and estate administration forms: practice, 2nd ed., Lexis, loose-leaf. Includes samples of simple wills.

Massachusetts probate manual, 5th ed., MCLE, 2022.

The mom's guide to wills & estate planning by Liza Hanks, Nolo, 2009.

Newhall's settlement of estates and fiduciary law in Massachusetts, 5th ed., with supplement.

Planning for the vacation home, MCLE, 2014.

Plan your estate by Denis Clifford, Nolo, 2022.

A practical guide to estate planning in Massachusetts, 4th ed., MCLE, loose-leaf.

Probate issues resolved under the MUPC: answers to the informal probate process, at last!, Mass. Bar Institute, 2013.

Quick & legal will book by Denis Clifford, Nolo, 2020.

Saving the family cottage : creative ways to preserve your cottage, cabin, camp or vacation home for future generations by Stuart J. Hollander, Nolo, 2021.

Trials and tribulations of estate administration under the MUPC, Suffolk University Law School, 2012.

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Last updated: October 14, 2022
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