Massachusetts Last Will and Testament Law

Wills and Estates – Last Will and Testament Law – Massachusetts

Note:  This summary is not intended to provide an all inclusive discussion of the law of wills, but does provide basic and other information for Massachusetts.  This discussion does not include provisions about hand written wills.

Persons who may make a will: Every person eighteen years of age or older and of sound mind may make a will in writing, signed by him or her.

Witnesses: The will must be attested and subscribed in the presence of the maker of the will, by two or more competent witnesses. G.L.c. 191, § 1A.

Competency of witnesses; interest of witness: Any person of sufficient understanding shall be deemed to be a competent witness to a will.  However, if a person to receive property under the will is a subscribing witness or to the husband or wife of such witness, the provision in the will to that witness shall be void unless there are two other subscribing witnesses to the will who are not similarly benefited thereunder. G.L.c. 191, § 2.

Foreign wills: A last will and testament is valid if executed according to the laws of the place where the will is executed or of the testator’s domicile; provided, that such last will and testament is in writing and subscribed by the testator.  G.L.c. 191, § 5

Means of revocation: A will may be revoked by burning, tearing, cancelling or obliterating it with the intention of revoking it, by the testator himself or by a person in his presence and by his direction; or by some other writing signed, attested and subscribed in the same manner as a will; or by subsequent changes in the condition or circumstances of the testator from which a revocation is implied by law. G.L.c. 191, § 8.

Effect of marriage, divorce or annulment: The marriage of a person shall act as a revocation of a will made by him previous to such marriage, unless it appears from the will that it was made in contemplation thereof. If, after executing a will, the testator shall be divorced or his marriage shall be annulled, the divorce or annulment shall revoke any disposition or appointment of property made by the will to the former spouse, and any nomination of the former spouse, as executor, trustee, conservator or guardian, unless the will shall expressly provide otherwise. If provisions shall be revoked solely by this section, they shall be revived by the testator’s remarriage to the former spouse. A decree of separation which does not terminate the status of husband and wife is not a divorce for the purpose of this section.  G.L.c. 191, § 9.

Deposit with register of probate; receipt; fee: A will enclosed in a sealed wrapper, with an endorsement thereon of the name and residence of the testator and of the day when and the person by whom it is deposited, and with or without the name of a person to whom the will is to be delivered after the death of the testator, shall, on the payment of five dollars, be received by the register of probate in the county where the testator lives, who shall give a certificate of the receipt thereof, and shall keep such will; and the same shall not be opened until it is delivered to a person entitled to receive it or is otherwise disposed of as hereinafter provided.G.L.c. 191, § 10.

Delivery of wills in custody: During the life of the testator such will shall be delivered only to him or in accordance with his order in writing duly verified by the oath of a subscribing witness; and after his death it shall be delivered to the person named in the endorsement, if such person demands it.G.L.c. 191, § 11.

Duty of possessor of will upon death of testator: A person having custody of a will, other than a register of probate, shall, within thirty days after notice of the death of the testator, deliver such will into the probate curt having jurisdiction of the probate thereof, or to the executors named in the will, who shall themselves deliver it into such court within said time; and if a person neglects without reasonable cause so to deliver a will, after being duly cited for that purpose by such court, he may be committed to jail by warrant of the court until he delivers it as above provided, and shall be liable to a person who is aggrieved for the damage sustained by him by reason of such neglect.G.L.c. 191, § 13.

Retaining or concealing wills; proceedings to obtain will.: If a person claiming to be interested in the estate of a person deceased makes complaint on oath to a probate court against any one suspected of retaining, concealing, or conspiring with others to retain or conceal, a will or testamentary instrument of the deceased, the court may cite the suspected person to appear before it and be examined on oath upon the matter of the complaint. Upon such examination all interrogatories and answers shall be in writing, signed by the person examined, and shall be filed in the court. If the person cited refuses to appear and to answer such interrogatories as are lawfully propounded to him, or to obey any lawful order of the court, he may be committed to jail by warrant of the court until he submits to its order. The court may award costs to be paid by either party, and may issue execution therefor. G.L.c. 191, § 14.’


Inside Massachusetts Last Will and Testament Law