You have undoubtedly been told by well-meaning friends and family member how important it is to execute a Last Will and Testament. Unless you understand why that is so important, however, you may lack sufficient motivation to get started on your Will. The Massachusetts estate planning attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices want you to know what happens if you die without a Will.
What Is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that allows the Testator (the person creating the Will) to communicate his/her final wishes regarding assets owned by the Testator at the time of death. Although you may not realize it, there are several different types of Wills a Testator may choose from when creating a Will, the most basic of which is referred to as a Simple Will. Even a simple Will, however, can accomplish a great deal, starting with ensuring that the Testator does not leave behind an intestate estate.
Dying Intestate – The Commonwealth of Massachusetts’s Estate Plan
As you know, your Will is the legal document used to decide how your estate assets are distributed upon your death. In legal terms, if you leave behind a valid Will you are said to leave behind a “testate” estate. Conversely, if you fail to execute a Will prior to your death, you leave behind an “intestate” estate. If you leave an intestate estate behind, you are effectively telling the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that you want the state to decide what happens to your estate assets when you are gone. You may not think you have enough of an estate to worry about how it is distributed; however, almost everyone owns at least some estate assets when they die. More importantly, the monetary value of your assets is not always what is truly important. Whether your estate is modest or excessive, don’t you want the opportunity to decide what happens to the assets you do own – and worked hard to obtain – when you die? Moreover, do you really want your family heirlooms to be sold in an estate sale or given to someone who does not reassure them as you do? If the Massachusetts intestate succession laws dictate how your estate is distributed, only close family members are likely to receive assets from your estate – and you do not get to decide which ones they are nor what assets they receive. Specifically, the Massachusetts intestate succession laws dictate that your estate be distributed as follows:
- Children but no spouse – your children inherit all your assets.
- Spouse but no descendants or parents – your spouse inherits everything.
- Spouse and descendants – spouse inherits half and descendants inherit the other half.
- Spouse and parents but no descendants – your spouse inherits the first $200,000 plus half of the balance and your parents inherit the other half of the balance.
- Parents but no spouse or descendants – parents inherit everything.
- Siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents – siblings inherit all assets.
The Massachusetts intestate succession laws dictate that more distant family members will inherit nothing from your estate nor will friends or charities that are dear to you. You do not let the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decide how you can use your assets while you are alive. Why would you let them decide what happens to them when you are gone? The simple way to prevent such an unwanted result is to make sure you always have a valid Last Will and Testament in place. Will provides all the protection you and your assets need.
Contact Massachusetts Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns, or you are ready to get started with your estate plan, contactthe Nashua estate planning attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.
Your favorite niece, for example, will not receive your cherished baseball card collection or your best friend will not get your photo album you promised her if you die without a Will.
No. You probably own sentimental items or family heirlooms that are priceless to you. A Will is the only way to ensure what happens to them when you are gone.
It may seem like an easy solution to use a DIY Will form you found on the internet but in the long run the odds of that form resulting in litigation may make it a costly choice.