If you die without a valid will while residing in the State of Massachusetts, you are said to have died "intestate." In order to determine who will receive your property if you die intestate, the State of Massachusetts has established a number of laws (known as "intestacy laws" or "laws of intestate succession.") The primary statutes comprising these intestacy laws, or laws of intestate succession, are set forth below. For a more complete list, see Massachusetts Intestacy Laws | Intestate Succession statutes.
Spouse’s share of property not disposed of by will
Section 1. A surviving husband or wife shall, after the payment of the debts of the deceased and the charges of his last sickness and funeral and of the settlement of his estate, and subject to chapter one hundred and ninety-six, be entitled to the following share in his real and personal property not disposed of by will:
(1) If the deceased leaves kindred and no issue, and it appearson determination by the probate court, as hereinafter provided, that the whole estate does not exceed two hundred thousand dollars in value, the surviving husband or wife shall take the whole thereof; otherwise such survivor shall take two hundred thousand dollars and one half of the remaining personal and one half of the remaining real property. If the personal property is insufficient to pay said two hundred thousand dollars, the deficiency shall, upon the petition of any party in interest, be paid from the sale or mortgage, in the manner provided for the payment of debts or legacies, of any interest of the deceased in real property which he could have conveyed at the time of his death; and the surviving husband or wife shall be permitted, subject to the approval of the court, to purchase at any such sale, notwithstanding the fact that he or she is the administrator of the estate of the deceased person. A further sale or mortgage of any real estate of the deceased may later be made to provide for any deficiency still remaining. Whenever it shall appear, upon petition to the probate court of any party in interest, and after such notice as the court shall order, and after a hearing thereon, that the whole amount of the estate of the deceased, as found by the inventory and upon such other evidence as the court shall deem necessary, does not exceed the sum of two hundred thousand dollars over and above the amount necessary to pay the debts and charges of administration, the court shall itself by decree determine the value of said estate, which decree shall be binding upon all parties. If additional property is later discovered, the right or title to the estate covered by such decree shall not be affected thereby, but the court may make such further orders and decrees as are necessary to effect the distribution herein provided for.
(2) If the deceased leaves issue, the survivor shall take one half of the personal and one half of the real property.
(3) If the deceased leaves no issue and no kindred, the survivor shall take the whole.
Distribution of personal property
Section 2. The personal property of a deceased person not lawfully disposed of by will shall, after the payment of his debts and the charges of his last sickness and funeral and of the settlement of the estate, and subject to the preceding section and to chapter one hundred and ninety-six, be distributed among the persons and in the proportions hereinafter prescribed for the descent of real property.
Descent of land, tenements or hereditaments
Section 3. When a person dies seized of land, tenements or hereditaments, or of any right thereto, or entitled to any interest therein, in fee simple or for the life of another, not having lawfully devised the same, they shall descend, subject to his debts and to the rights of the husband or wife and minor children of the deceased as provided in this and in the two preceding chapters and in chapter one hundred and ninety-six, as follows:
(1) In equal shares to his children and to the issue of any deceased child by right of representation; and if there is no surviving child of the intestate then to all his other lineal descendants. If all such descendants are in the same degree of kindred to the intestate, they shall share the estate equally; otherwise, they shall take according to the right of representation.
(2) If he leaves no issue, in equal shares to his father and mother.
(3) If he leaves no issue and no mother, to his father.
(4) If he leaves no issue and no father, to his mother.
(5) If he leaves no issue and no father or mother, to his brothers and sisters and to the issue of any deceased brother or sister by right of representation; and, if there is no surviving brother or sister of the intestate, to all the issue of his deceased brothers and sisters. If all such issue are in the same degree of kindred to the intestate, they shall share the estate equally, otherwise, according to the right of representation.
(6) If he leaves no issue, and no father, mother, brother or sister, and no issue of any deceased brother or sister, then to his next of kin in equal degree; but if there are two or more collateral kindred in equal degree claiming through different ancestors, those claiming through the nearest ancestor shall be preferred to those claiming through an ancestor more remote.
(7) If an intestate leaves no kindred and no widow or husband, his estate shall escheat to the commonwealth; provided, however, if such intestate is a veteran who died while a member of the Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts or the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, his estate shall inure to the benefit of the legacy fund or legacy account of the soldiers’ home of which he was a member.
Computation of degrees of kindred
Section 4. Degrees of kindred shall be computed according to the rules of the civil law; and the kindred of the half blood shall inherit equally with those of the whole blood in the same degree.
Rights of persons born out of wedlock
Section 5. A person born out of wedlock is heir of his mother and of any person from whom his mother might have inherited, if living, and the descendents of a person born out of wedlock shall represent such person and take, by descent, any estate which such person would have taken, if living.
Descent of estates of persons born out of wedlock
Section 6. If a person born out of wedlock dies intestate, such estate shall pass in accordance with the law of intestate succession except that the father and his kindred shall not be considered as relatives of the child born out of wedlock unless the child might have inherited from the father as provided in section seven.
Intermarriage of parents of persons born out of wedlock
Section 7. A person born out of wedlock whose parents have intermarried and whose father has acknowledged him as his child or has been adjudged his father under chapter two hundred and seventy-three, chapter two hundred and nine C or under similar law of another jurisdiction shall be deemed legitimate and shall be entitled to take the name of his parents to the same extent as if born in lawful wedlock. If a decedent has acknowledged paternity of a person born out of wedlock or if during his lifetime or after his death a decedent has been adjudged to be the father of a person born out of wedlock that person is heir of his father and of any person from whom his father might have inherited, if living, and the descendents of a person born out of wedlock shall represent that person and take by descent any estate which such person would have taken, if living. A person may establish paternity if, within the period provided under section nine of chapter one hundred and ninety-seven for bringing actions against executors and administrators, such person either (a) delivers to the executor or administrator an authenticated copy of a judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction during a decedent’s lifetime adjudging the decedent to be the father of a person born out of wedlock, or (b) commences, in a court of competent jurisdiction, an action in which the executor or administrator is a named party and in which such paternity is ultimately proved.
Inheritance or succession by right of representation; posthumous children
Section 8. Inheritance or succession by right of representation is the taking by the descendants of a deceased heir of the same share or right in the estate of another person as their parent would have taken if living. Posthumous children shall be considered as living at the death of their parent.
[Reference - Massachusetts' Intestacy Laws].