Abatement of a will in Massachusetts is the process of reducing the dollar amount of certain gifts so that the estate can cover the promises it makes. This is somewhat common due to the fact that fortunes fluctuate. The original terms of a will may not apply to the real-world situation of settling the estate.
Various states have different rules for this process. This article will provide a hypothetical example of abatement and then look at the order of abatement in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
As explained by the National Paralegal College, some estates do not have adequate resources to cover administration, debts to creditors and the will’s bequests. For example, imagine that a simple will provided gifts to two beneficiaries:
- One gets $1,000 from a specific bank account.
- Another receives whatever was left.
If there were insufficient funds, abatement may occur. After paying for administration fees and settling all relevant debts, the specific gift from the bank account would typically take priority. The first beneficiary would receive the money first.
In Massachusetts, there is a default order for abatement. If the testator does not specify otherwise, then the following order of abatement takes place according to state statute:
- Property not specified in the will
- Gifts with definitions such as “whatever is left”
- General gifts, such as cash
- Specific bequeathals, such as money from a specific asset sale or bank account
Additionally, there is no preference in Massachusetts statutory law between real estate and other personal property. Overall, abatement is important to consider both when carrying out a will and when planning an estate. The state statutes provide general guidelines, but they also allow for customization if necessary.