Making a Will in Massachusetts

How to make a will in Massachusetts, and what can happen if you don't.

Why should I create a Massachusetts will?

Creating a will -- also known as a "last will and testament" -- is a step you can take to help protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:

  • name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • name a trusted person to manage property left to minor children
  • leave your property to people or organizations, and
  • name an executor, who will ensure that the terms of your will are carried out.

If I die without a will, what happens?

If you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to Massachusetts state "intestacy" laws. The intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. In the absence of a spouse or children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. If none exist, the state seeks out other relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and your spouse's relatives. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.

Do I need a lawyer to make a will in Massachusetts?

No -- you can create your own will in Massachusetts, using Nolo's do-it-yourself will software or online will programs. You may want to consult a lawyer in some situations, however. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or if you want to disinherit your spouse, you should talk with an attorney. Nolo's will-making products tell you when it's wise to seek a lawyer's advice.

What are the requirements for signing a will in Massachusetts?

To finalize your will in Massachusetts:

  • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses, and
  • your witnesses must also sign your will.

Do I need to have my will notarized?

No, in Massachusetts, it is not necessary to notarize your will to make it legal.

Massachusetts does, however, allow you to make your will "self-proving." A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it. To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses will need to go to a notary and sign an affidavit that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will.

Should I use my will to name an executor?

Yes. In Massachusetts, your will can name an executor who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's will software and online will produces a letter to your executor that generally explains what the job requires. If no executor is specified, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

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