Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Massachusetts wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will) in creating valid Massachusetts wills and in assigning a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a Massachusetts last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements of a Massachusetts Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years of age
Capacity: The testator must be of sound (capable of reasoning and making decisions) mind.
Signature: A Massachusetts last will and testament must be signed by the testator, or by another person under the testator's direction and presence.
Witnesses: Two witnesses (who should not receive property under the will) must sign the will in the testator's presence.
Writing: A Massachusetts last will and testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A will may make a disposition of property to any person.
Other types of recognized wills:
Nuncupative Wills: An oral will may be made by a soldier in actual military service or a mariner at sea to dispose of his personal property.
Distribution of Property:
A will is a legal document created by you to determine how your property, known as your estate, is distributed after your death. Your estate consists of assets and property including bank accounts, homes, land, furniture, automobiles, and securities (stocks and bonds). In general, Massachusetts laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
LegalZoom's Massachusetts will form may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
Our Massachusetts will form may be used to name an executor (also called a personal representative or administrator) to handle a testator's property and affairs from the time of death until the estate is settled.
Our Massachusetts will form may also be used to pass on property to a charity.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Property owned in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship automatically passes onto the surviving owner.
A beneficiary in a life insurance policy may not be changed through a will.
A spouse may not be entirely excluded from a will. In the event that a spouse is excluded, the spouse may exercise the right given by Massachusetts laws to a portion of the estate within a given time defined by law to avert forfeiting any share of the estate.
Providing for Pets
Massachusetts law currently does not have specific statutes pertaining to providing care for pets. However, the testator may specify a beneficiary as the new owner of a pet. Legalzoom's Massachusetts wills form gives you the choice of providing for your pets in this manner.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
A Massachusetts will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A will can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with Massachusetts laws.
Revoking a Will
A Massachusetts will and testament may be revoked either by:
- burning, tearing, canceling or obliterating it with the intention of revoking it, by the testator himself or by a person in his presence and by his direction;
- by some other writing created in the same manner as a will; or
- by subsequent changes in the condition or circumstances of the testator from which a revocation is implied by law.
Probate and Estate Taxes
After the testator has died, probate procedures prove the validity of the Massachusetts last will, pay off debts and taxes of the estate, appoint a personal representative to administrate the will, and distribute property as designated in the Massachusetts last will.
Massachusetts laws have decoupled estate taxes from the Federal estate tax system for anyone dying after January 1, 2003. Therefore, taxes that were not owed under the Federal system may be owed under the new system.
It is extremely important to make a Massachusetts will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Massachusetts laws.
For example, if you die leaving a spouse and children, the surviving spouse takes half of the personal property and real estate, and the children receive the remaining half. If there are surviving children and no spouse, then the children receive the entire estate.
If you make a Massachusetts will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.