Gay Marriage and Inheritance Rights in Minnesota, Part I

Twin Cities Estate Planning Attorney Discusses Inheritance for Unmarried Couples

UPDATE: August 2, 2012 – Then Hennepin County Probate Court has ruled that Mr. Morrison can inherit as the legal spouse of Mr. Proehl. 

A Hennepin County Probate Court is set to rule on the issue of whether gay couples who are legally married in another state but reside, and die, in Minnesota may inherit from their same-sex spouse.  Because this is such a major case for my numerous unmarried clients, I will be drafting several blog posts on why it matters.  This first post deals mainly with the facts of the case.

Thomas Proehl and James Morrison, together for over 25 years, were legally married while living in California.  Upon deciding to return to Minnesota, they sold their California home and bought a new house here.  They jointly owned the Minnesota home and had a joint checking account to pay bills.  Unfortunately, the couple did not plan for the worst happening – and it did.

Sadly Mr. Proehl died of a heart attack at the age of 46 in 2011.  In settling Mr. Proehl’s estate, Mr. Morrison learned that the $100,000 profit they received from the California home sale was put into an individual investment account solely in Mr. Proehl’s name.  Further, Mr. Proehl had a life insurance policy through his job at the U but mistakenly forgot to name Mr. Morrison as the beneficiary of the policy.

Between the investment account and the insurance policy, there was $250,000 that had to go through probate to determine to whom it should be given.  As you may recall from prior posts, the Probate Court will look to a decedent’s will to determine how to distribute these assets.  So, who gets the $250,000?  The legal battle that ensued over this will be covered in the next post…