When you begin planning your estate, you will likely start by creating a will. This document establishes your wishes for your possessions and custody of your minor children and takes effect if you die.

Review the laws that govern wills and estate planning in Massachusetts.

Available will provisions

The state allows you to create a will for the purposes of:

  • Distributing your property to beneficiaries, including charitable organizations
  • Establishing legal guardians for your children
  • Establishing a trust to provide financially for any person or pet

Validity of wills

Any state resident age 18 or older can make a will if he or she is mentally capable of understanding this legal process. Your will must be in writing to be valid in Massachusetts.

You must either sign the will or direct someone else to do so for you. In either case, two witnesses must also sign. Beneficiaries to your estate cannot also act as witnesses to your will.

Sea mariners and active military personnel can make an oral will. If you are in this situation, you can tell another person how to distribute your personal assets only.

You can change your will at any time by the same legal process you use to make your original will. For this reason, it is never too early to make your wishes known. Creating a will is especially important for anyone who has minor children or owns property.

If you die without a will, the state will distribute your property according to intestate laws. Massachusetts passes assets to your surviving spouse, dependents and parents in that order.