The underlying questions demonstrating the need for estate planning is “What happens if I die without a will?” You may think that if you leave nothing behind stating how you want your assets to be dispersed, your family and friends in Wakefield may be allowed to make such a decision themselves. Unfortunately, that is not the case. If you die without a will, then your estate is considered to be “intestate.” The guidelines for dispersing such estates are left for the state to determine.
Section 2-102 of Massachusetts’ General Laws states that in the event your estate is intestate, your surviving spouse is entitled to its entirety if you have no surviving parents or other descendants, or those descedants that do survive you are also descedents of your spouse (and he or she does not have any other descedants not related to you). If your parents are still alive, your spouse inherits the first $200,000 of your estate, and then 3/4 of the remaining amount. If any of your descendants are not the direct descedants of your spouse, then your spouse receives the first $100,000 of the estate as well as 1/2 of its remaining value. The same is true is your spouse has a surviving descendent that is not directly related to you.
In each of the aforementioned scenarios, the remaining portion of your estate goes to other respective parties mentioned. If your spouse preceded you in death, then your entire estate goes to your descendants. If you have no direct descendants, then your parents would be set to inherit your estate followed by your siblings (and their descendants), and then any surviving next of kin.