Minnesota Estate Planning: What Happens Without a Will?

Estate planning is something that many of us don’t like to think about. We think we will live long lives, and for many that is true. For many more, well, it is not quite so true. However, what happens if you die and do not leave a will? If you neglect estate planning in Minnesota, like most other states, Minnesota has a plan for you, but you likely will not like it.

Minnesota’s default inheritance scheme is referenced under the intestate Minnesota Probate Law. Under it, your assets will be identified and distributed even without a will, but there is no guarantee that they will go where you want them to. The law is rigid and lacking in options, something that those who found out through the deaths of other relatives has greatly prompted them to consider estate planning.

So how does succession work under Minnesota law?

How is the Executor Chosen?

The first thing you need to know is who will be in charge of the division process. Without a will, the matter will go to the Minnesota probate court. There within, they will choose someone to handle the process of divvying up the assets. The first option chosen by judges is often the surviving spouse or partner. Afterwards comes adult children, and finally other relatives will be considered if no other options are left.

What Won’t Be Handled by Probate Court?

There are some assets that aren’t passed down by wills, and thus will not be handled by probate court if you don’t have them. This includes life insurance payouts, joint bank accounts with the right of survivorship, living trusts, and retirement accounts. Typically these have beneficiaries so they will be handled outside of probate court.

Who Will Inherit in Minnesota?

If you die and leave behind a living spouse, then they will be the first person that stands to inherit. Unfortunately, many modern families are quite messy. Some spouses have children from another marriage, occasionally two sets belonging to each party. How will your estate be split then?

If you have no descendants or if all descendants are the product of you and your spouse, your spouse will inherit your entire estate. However, it you or your spouse have children from another marriage, the law states that your spouse will get $150,000 from your estate as well as half of the remaining balance, the rest with will distributed among your own children.

If there is no spouse, the state looks to parents and siblings, then to more distant relatives.

If I Die Without a Will, Is The State Going to Take My Money?

This is the most common question ever asked in terms of estate planning. No one wants their money to be “donated” to the state coffers after they die, they want it to go to the people they love. The unfortunate news is that it can happen, but the likelihood is extremely low. It is actually thanks to state laws that the likelihood is so low. Thanks to a firm succession plan drafted by the state, it ensures that your money goes to someone living, even if it is someone as distant as cousins, aunts, or uncles.

However, it can still happen if you are the very last of your line. If you have no other relatives that can be found, the money will default to the state.

Although it may unpleasant to think about and a headache to actually do, estate planning is important and a way to ensure that your assets go to the people who you actually want them to go to. If you are in the Dakota County area and need to plan for your family’s future after you are gone, contact Gilbert Alden PLLC today.

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