Intestate Succession in Minnesota Part 2 – What if I Don’t Have a Will?

If you die intestate, that is without a will, in Minnesota, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state “intestate succession” laws. Part 1 of this post explained what assets go to what set of relatives. But…

Who Are My Descendants Under Minnesota Intestate Succession?

It’s complicated. Descendants include anyone related to you by a chain of parent/child relationships, such as your children or grandchildren. There are a few rules that might be unexpected in Minnesota intestate succession:

  • Adopted children. Legally adopted children inherit in the same as biological children.
  • Foster children and stepchildren. Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted do not necessarily inherit.
  • Children placed for adoption. Children you placed for adoption and who were legally adopted by another family do not inherit.
  • Posthumous children. Children conceived by you but not born before your death will inherit if they survive for at least 120 hours after birth.
  • Children born outside of marriage. If you were not married to your child’s mother when she gave birth to them, they will inherit as long as your paternity has been established under Minnesota law.
  • Children born during your marriage. Any child born to your wife during your marriage is assumed to be your child and will inherit.
  • Children conceived by assisted reproduction. Children conceived by assisted reproduction will inherit from their birth mother’s estate. If your sperm was used to conceive a child by assisted reproduction, the child will receive a share of your estate if your paternity is established by the official birth record or by your consent to the assisted reproduction procedure as determined by Minnesota law. To inherit, the child must be in gestation prior to your death.
  • Grandchildren. Your grandchildren will inherit only if their parent (your child) has died before you.

Minnesota Statutes §§ 524.2-101-122 cover parent-child relationships and require careful reading to figure out who might be entitled to a share of the estate.

Who Are My Siblings Under Minnesota Intestate Succession?

Under Minnesota law, “half” relatives inherit as if they were “whole.” That is, the sibling with whom you share one parent but not the other have the same right to your property as he or she would if you had both parents in common.

The “Spousal Share” Under Minnesota Intestate Succession

In Minnesota, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living descendants. If you don’t have any living descendants or if all of your descendants are in common with your spouse, the surviving spouse inherits all of your intestate assets.

But, again, it gets complicated if you have a mixed family. If either you or your spouse have children in common AND descendants from previous relationships, then your surviving spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property plus 1/2 of the rest. The balance is divided amongst your descendants.

Here’s an example: John is married to Mary, and they have two adult children in common. Mary has a child from a previous marriage. John and Mary own a home in joint tenancy. If John dies, Mary receives the home outright because it is not part of John’s intestate property. John also owned $500,000 in assets under his own name, so Mary inherits $325,000 worth of that property – that is, $150,000 plus half of the rest ($175,000). The remaining $175,000 is divided up amongst John and Mary’s two adult children.

If we add to the scenario that John had a child from a previous relationship, then the children’s share, $175,000, would have been divided into thirds amongst his three children.

Clear, right??

This is a good example of why you wouldn’t want to leave your assets up to intestacy laws. By having a will or estate plan, you can choose who gets what rather than the state. Properly drafted estate plans also protect your minor children, who can’t inherit outright even if you don’t have a will. You can decide how and when your children will get the assets and who will manage them until that time. And that’s really important. Even if you aren’t Prince.