The question is not simply answered. All debts and funeral expenses of the decedent need to be paid first. Special assets such as life insurance proceeds pass outside of the probate process. You should seek advice from a qualified attorney to give you proper guidance.
Advice provided is of a general nature to provide guidance. Divorce law is state specific. One should always check the laws in their home jurisdiction. An attorney-client relationship is not intended or established through provided responses.
From the probate code:
§ 16 INTESTATE SHARE OF SURVIVING
The Code gives the surviving spouse a larger share than is provided under current Massachusetts law. G.L. c. 190B, § 2-102 MA cmt.; G.L. c. 190, § 1. Empirical studies support this increase in the surviving spouse’s intestate share, showing that testators in smaller estates tend to devise their entire estates to their surviving spouses, even when the couple has children. G.L. c. 190B, § 2-102
cmt.; see also G.L. c. 190B, § 2-102 MA cmt.
Under the Code, the intestate share of a decedent’s surviving spouse is the entire
intestate estate if there is no surviving descendant or parent of the decedent.
G.L. c. 190B, § 2-102(1)(i). Additionally, the surviving spouse takes the entire
intestate estate if all of the decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse and there is no other descendent of the surviving
spouse who survives the decedent. G.L. c. 190B, § 2-102(1)(ii).
If there is no surviving descendant but a parent survives the decedent, then the
surviving spouse’s intestate share is the first $200,000 and three-fourths of any
balance of the intestate estate. G.L. c. 190B, § 2-102(2).
If all of the decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has one or more surviving descendants who
are not descendants of the decedent, then the surviving spouse’s intestate share is
the first $100,000 and one-half of any balance of the intestate estate. G.L. c. 190B,
If one or more of the decedent’s surviving descendants are not descendants of
the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse’s intestate share is the first
$100,000 and one-half of any balance of the intestate estate. G.L. c. 190B,
In all cases where the surviving spouse receives a lump sum plus a fraction of
the balance, the lump sums are in addition to the exemptions and allowances
provided for under the Code. G.L. c. 190B, § 2-102 cmt.
Providing users with information is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship. However, if in reading my response, you are interested in retaining me to represent you, please do not hesitate to contact me.
It really depends on the type and ownership of the assets or property in question. Intestacy law and the law of property is very confusing, and is easily misunderstood by laypeople. The answer to your question is probably very difficult to answer in an online forum like this, but could probably be answered quite easily in a face to face meeting with an attorney.
Christopher Vaughn-Martel is a Massachusetts lawyer with the firm of Vaughn-Martel Law in Boston, Massachusetts. All answers are based on Massachusetts law and the limited facts presented by the questioner. All answers are provided to the general public for educational purposes only and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question. To schedule a consultation with a lawyer, and obtain advice and review of your specific legal issue, please call us today at 617-357-4898 or visit us at www.vaughnmartel.com.
The law in Massachusetts recently changed (April 2012) and we are now under the "Uniform Probate Code." The rules for intestate succession changed a bit, but generally yes the surviving spouse takes a certain amount and the "excess" is divided among children or other heirs. If the dollar amount is low as you say, then likely the surviving spouse takes it all. You should meet with an attorney to determine what property is part of the probate estate (some property passes "outside" of probate).
The above answer is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. You can contact me directly at 978-657-5600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.