The short answer to this question is that you lose control and Minnesota determines what happens to the property that you left behind (your “Estate”). In Minnesota, if you die without a Will your property will be divided and distributed to those family members that Minnesota indicates are legal family members and entitled to a share of your property (legal term is “Intestate Succession”). With the dynamic nature of the modern family, you may not agree with the way Minnesota defines your family and distributes your property.

Your family arrangement may not fit within any of the examples below, and if so, the only way to guarantee that your family members receive what you want them to receive is through a Will.

If you are married and have no children previous to or outside of your marriage, your surviving spouse inherits your estate. If you have children but never got married, your children inherit all property in your estate. If you were never married and have no children, your parents inherit your estate. If you have no spouse, children and your parents are not alive, surviving siblings inherit all of your estate in equal shares. Those are some of the “easy” scenarios. Where it becomes difficult is when you have children from a previous marriage or your spouse has children from a previous marriage.

If you are married at the time of death, Minnesota law generally dictates that the surviving spouse receives everything. However, if you and your spouse had children apart from each other, then the surviving spouse would receive the first $150,000.00, plus one-half of the rest of the estate. So, for example, if all of your property is worth less than $150,000.00, then your surviving spouse would receive everything and any children from a previous marriage would receive nothing. If your estate is worth more than $150,000.00, after the spouse receives his/her share, children from another relationship would inherit all that remains in the estate.

For children to inherit from you without a Will, they must be considered your children under Minnesota law. Any children legally adopted are regarded the same as biological children. If you have a stepchild that you have not adopted, that child will likely not receive a share of your estate. If you gave a child up for adoption to another family, that child will not receive a share of your estate. Grandchildren do not receive any of your property unless that grandchild’s parent did not survive you. In that case, the grandchildren would receive equal disbursements of their parents share.

If no heirs are determined, the entire estate goes to the State of Minnesota.

That is just a snapshot of what happens to your estate if you die without a Will. If you want control of what happens and do not want Minnesota to dictate what happens to your estate, then you should not neglect to have a legally valid Will drafted by a licensed attorney.

*This article does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to constitute advertising or solicitation for legal services. Nothing in this article should be construed by you as a source of legal advice. You should not rely or act upon the contents of this article without seeking advice from your own attorney.