What are the rights of a surviving spouse when there is no will?

While it is true that the law in Minnesota provides for the distribution of assets after your death even if you do not leave a valid will, estate planning allows you to avoid potential pitfalls. The laws of intestacy under which your assets are distributed to your heirs after your death may not provide for your family as you might have in a will.

Intestate distribution of assets if you are a married couple with children from prior marriages may not result in your assets going there you might want them to go after your death. Under state law, if you die leaving a surviving spouse and no children, your assets will go to your spouse. If, however, you and your spouse had children, the intestacy laws give all of your estate to your spouse with nothing going to your children.

If you have children from a prior marriage, your spouse will receive the first $150,000 of your estate and half of the remainder. The rest of your estate will go to your children from your prior marriage. Your spouse will also receive the first $150,000 and half of the balance if you and your surviving spouse had children together. Your children would be entitled to divide the remaining half.

Estate planning allows you to avoid having your estate divided in a way that is not of your own choosing. The intestacy laws and how they apply in specific situations can be complicated. This post is merely an overview of this complex area of the law. It is not offered as legal advice, and it should not be relied upon in making decisions about inheritance rights after your death. Legal advice about wills and estates should only be obtained from a qualified attorney.

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