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Massachusetts law about wills and estates

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

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

Fees

Uniform schedule of fees

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

Web sources

Estate planning 

Wills and estates administration 

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

Contact

Online

Law library locations and phone numbers Library locations 
Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com
Last updated: August 30, 2021
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