Who Are Next of Kin In Massachusetts?

The term next of kin in Massachusetts generally means the blood relations to the decedent, and does not include spouses.  However, when used in the inheritance context, next of kin is generally used interchangeably with heirs at law and includes the following survivors of a decedent in the following order:

  1. Surviving spouse
  2. Children and descendants
  3. Parents
  4. Siblings
  5. Grandparents


What Do Next of Kin Inherit From A Decedent’s Estate In Massachusetts?

The next of kin heirs at law that inherit from a decedent’s estate in Massachusetts when the decedent dies intestate (without a will) depends on the survivors of the decedent.


Share Of Intestate Estate

Spouse only

100% of estate to spouse

Children only

100% of estate to children and descendants, per capita at each generation

Spouse and children of the decedent OR of the spouse from another relationship

–         First $100,000 of estate to spouse

–         ½ of the balance of the estate to spouse

–         Remaining estate to children

Spouse and children who are all of the marriage

100% of estate to spouse

Spouse and parents, no children

-First $200,000 of estate to spouse

– ½ of the balance of the estate to spouse

– Remaining estate to parents

Parents, no spouse or children

–         Parents each get ½ of the estate

–         If only one parent survives, surviving parent takes entire estate

Siblings, no parents, spouse, or children

Siblings inherit equal shares of the estate

No siblings, parents, spouse, or children

Nearest lineal relatives inherit the estate

The information used in the table can be found in the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code, sections 2-102 and 2-103.

When Is Status As Next Of Kin Determined Under Massachusetts Law?

Status as next of kin under Massachusetts law, unless a contrary intent is expressed in a document, is determined as of the date of the decedent’s death.

What Does “Per Capita At Each Generation” Mean?

The term “per capita at each generation” is used in the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code when discussing the inheritance shares of a decedent who leaves descendants.  “Per capita at each generation” means that the decedent’s estate is divided equally at the generation that has a living survivor.  The share of any deceased member of that generation is shared by the deceased member’s living issue.

The term “issue” is defined in sections 1-201 (25) and (9) of the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code to mean “descendants,” defined as:

‘Descendant” of an individual means all of such individual’s descendants of all generations, with the relationship of parent and child at each generation being determined by the definition of child and parent contained in this chapter.

We have written about the term “issue” causing confusion in Massachusetts probate court here.

Does A Massachusetts Heir At Law Automatically Inherit From A Decedent’s Estate?

No, a Massachusetts heir will only inherit if there are probate assets.  If a decedent died with only non-probate assets, such as jointly held property or bank accounts with pay on death designations, then there will not be any assets that pass through probate, and nothing for the heirs at law to inherit through intestacy.  See the Probate and Non-Probate Assets Chart.

A Massachusetts probate lawyer can help you determine your status and rights as next of kin.