Wills Part I: What is a will?

By its most basic definition a will is a legal document that establishes the final wishes of a testator regarding the distribution of his estate after he dies. Among other things, wills allow individuals to make decisions regarding the distribution of their assets, the guardianship of minor children, and who will handle the distribution of their estate once they have died.

If a person dies without a will they are considered to have died intestate. When a person dies intestate his estate is distributed according to the default rules established in his home jurisdiction. Generally speaking, intestacy statutes call for the distribution of the deceased person’s estate to the closest living relatives which usually follows the order of spouse, descendants, parents, siblings, and so on.

The laws regarding wills can vary dramatically depending on jurisdiction. This weekly series will focus primarily on the laws of Massachusetts and the recently adopted Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code.

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