If the person had a valid will, the will determines how the person’s property will pass. Each state has its own requirements for execution of a will, but all states accept a will that complies with the laws of the state where the person resided when the will was signed.

If a person dies intestate (without a valid will), the laws of the state of residence determine who will inherit personal property. “Personal property” is all property that is not real estate (cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds, furniture, cars, collections, jewelry, etc.). This rule applies to all personal property located in any state. For example, if a Mass. resident had bank accounts in Florida, the funds in the Florida accounts will pass according to Mass. law.

Real estate is treated differently. Real estate passes according to the law of the state where the real estate is located. For example, if a Mass. resident dies intestate, all personal property will pass according to Mass. law. However, if that Mass. resident owned real estate in Maine, the real estate will pass according to Maine law.

A will avoids having state law determine how your property will be divided. A well-written will should be simple and direct, defining how your property will pass, naming a guardian for minor children, and appointing a trusted person as executor of your estate.

If you have questions regarding the administration of an estate in Massachusetts contact probate administration attorney Jennifer Taddeo to schedule a consultation about your specific matter.