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Beneficiaries

Many people are unaware that in a wrongful death action in Massachusetts, which is brought under Massachusetts General Laws, c. 229 s. 2, the proceeds are meant to be distributed to the statutory beneficiaries and pass outside of the estate. It must be noted that M.G.L. c. 229, sec. 2 references the classes of statutory beneficiaries set out in sec. 1 solely in order to determine the identities of the “presumptive takers”– or those beneficiaries who “may” recover– but it does not speak to the percentage each is to receive.

Instead, s. 2 establishes that the jury will determine whether each individual “presumptive taker” suffered a loss for which they may be compensated. (If the case is not tried, then as with anything this is a matter of negotiation.) The statutory beneficiaries sometimes do not have the same quality of relationship to the decedent. With that in mind, those statutory beneficiaries may not necessarily take in equal shares. In Massachusetts, we look to Guy v. Johnson, 15 Mass. App. Ct. 757 (1983) and Burt v. Meyer, 400 Mass. 185 (1987), as they have established that the beneficiary’s contact with the decedent governs the respective amounts of entitlement.

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