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Distribution of the Estate of a person that died in 2007 without a will

I am receiving conflicting information regarding who gets what when a person dies without a will in Massachusetts, and part of the confusion may be due to the fact that my father died in 2007, and some of the Massachusetts laws regarding estates apparently changed in 2008 and 2011.

Some have said the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse if the value of the estate is less than $100,000.

Others have said that - regardless of the value of the estate - half goes to the surviving spouse and the remaining half is divided equally between the children.

Here are the specific facts of my situation:

My father died in 2007. He had a bank account with a balance of $70,000 that was in his name only (all joint accounts passed directly to my mother). My mother was named executor of the estate in 2008, but has not taken any actions regarding the settlement of the estate until recently. We have just filed state and federal tax forms for 2008, 2009, and 2010. The 2011 taxes will be filed at the beginning of 2012. She's now ready to distribute the bulk of the money in the bank account, holding back a small portion for the estimated taxes that will be due, and close the estate. My parents had three children, but one brother died before my father and left behind two children.

Initially she was going to distribute the estate as follows:
Surving spouse: 50% ($35,000)
Child 1: 16.67% ($11,667)
Child 2: 16.67% ($11,667)
Grandchild 1 (survivor of deceased child #3): 8.33% ($5,833)
Grandchild 2 (survivor of deceased child #3): 8.33% ($5,833)

But since she's received conflicting information about how to distribute the assets, she's holding off until determining which method is correct.

Can you provide some information that will resolve this dilemma?


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Sorry to say it, but it sounds like the administration of the estate is a bit muddled at this point, and your mother should probably talk to an attorney.  The bottom line is that the estate must be distributed according to the Massachusetts intestacy laws.  Also, the last I heard, the new intestacy rules, based on our adoption of the Uniform Probate Code, do not take effect until January 2012.  Good luck.

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