Massachusetts law about wills and estates

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

Table of Contents

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

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

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

Best bet

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."

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

Administrative office (no law library at this location)
2 Center Plaza
9th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: February 25, 2019
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