You need more than the ‘luck of the Irish’ to avoid probate court decisions on your estate plan

By Elizabeth A. Caruso, Esq. 

Legal Legacy Planning, LLC 

Don’t leave your estate plan to luck!

If you do not have a properly written estate plan, not even the luck of the Irish can save your loved ones from the probate court. In Massachusetts, if you do not have an estate plan, the Commonwealth has one for you. The order of inheritance depends on whether you are married, have children, parents, siblings or other living relatives.

For so-called “traditional” families where the children share parentage and the parents were married, the estate passes to the surviving spouse and then to the children equally. But what about everyone else? Estate planning is especially important for “non-traditional” families.

Unmarried couples. If you and your partner have chosen not to get married, then estate planning is crucial for you if you want to make sure your partner inherits from you. Without proper documentation, unmarried partners will not inherit from each other. Instead, estates will be distributed to the deceased’s children, parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews, or other distant relatives.

People who are child free. For those who do not have children, the Commonwealth dictates that your estate will go to your parents, siblings, and their children. If there are nieces and nephews who have been like children to you, you will need to plan for them specifically for the order of inheritance to skip parents and siblings. Additionally, if there are friends and charities that are important, those also need to be specifically part of a written estate plan to inherit from the estate.

Second marriages and blended families. A clear estate plan is crucial for blended families. The spouses and children in blended families may have very different expectations for what an inheritance is going to look like. These situations are the ones most likely to end up in a probate court fight. These fights can be avoided by a clearly drafted estate plan where the deceased is able to provide for those they loved exactly how they wanted.

An elder law attorney can sit down with you to plan your estate plan to encompass all the planning that is important to you.

About the Author: Elizabeth A. Caruso, Esq. is an attorney at Legacy Legal Planning, LLC, in Norwell. She has been practicing estate planning, probate, and elder law on the South Shore for more than a decade. If this article has sparked questions for you, please feel free to reach out via phone 781-971-5900 or email to schedule a time to discuss your unique situation.