I help clients in seeking what is rightfully theirs, and represent them in disputes involving the distribution of estate assets.
Massachusetts Intestate Distribution
In Massachusetts and other states, when a person dies without a valid will, they are said to die “intestate.” When this occurs, state law governs the distribution of all assets, including who is entitled to inherit assets, and the percentage of the assets that each person must receive.
How Are Assets Distributed When there Is No Will?
In all probate matters, the first critical action is that a personal representative for the estate must be approved by the court. The personal representative must first collect assets, and then pay all taxes and legitimate debts of the decedent out of the estate. The remaining assets then are available to beneficiaries (those named in a valid will) or heirs (those who inherit assets if there is no will).
When there is no will, state intestacy laws have a strict forumla that governs who is to inherit, and the percentage of the estate that each heir will receive. For instance, if a parent dies without a will and without a surviving spouse, any assets remaining in the estate must be distributed equally to the children. It does not matter, for instance, that the parent wanted to disinherit one of the children, or to give one child more than the others, even if the parent made such wishes clearly known.
Some people believe that it is possible to circumvent having a will by telling others (usually their children) exactly how their estate is to be distributed. They believe that when they pass, their assets will be distributed in accordance with instructions. This is often a mistake, as the personal representative of the estate is bound to distribute assets in accordance with state intestate law.
Unintended Results When a Person Dies Intestate in Massachusetts
If a person dies intestate (without a valid will) in Massachusetts, the following may be some unintended results:
- An unmarried domestic partner will usually not be entitled to inherit any assets of the decedent (other than those that are jointly owned with a right of survivorship).
- After death, the assets solely owned by the decedent will likely pass to the decedent’s relatives, such as their children.
- Assets owned jointly by the decedent and their partner without a right of survivorship may become owned jointly by the surviving partner and the decedent’s relatives, such as their children.
- Assets may be distributed to children (or other relatives) whom the decedent wanted to disown.
- Specific assets (like a family heirlooms) may not go to the intended beneficiary (such as a specific child). Those inheriting assets are entitled only to their fair share in terms of the fair market value of assets, they are not entitled to any specific assets under Massachusetts intestacy law.
How I Help in Intestacy Disputes
When there is no will, significant disputes can arise concerning:
- Who is entitled to inherit
- The fair market value of assets
- Claims of “fair” distribution of family heirlooms
- How the estate in general should be administered
I offer dedicated representation and creative solutions to further client objectives in intestate and probate dispute matters. I represent clients by asserting their rights and seeking to fulfill their objectives in an expeditious and cost-effective manner whenever possible.
It is usually in the interest of all parties to reach an amicable agreement based upon the merits of their claim rather than engaging in expensive and protracted litigation that often takes considerable time and may deplete the estate.
If you are involved in a probate dispute or intestacy matter, I would look forward to having the opportunity to speak with you to learn about your matter and explain how I may be able to help.