Minnesota Probate Law: Intestate Succession Rules for Inheritance

By Chris Tymchuck
Founding Attorney

Do you know who would inherit your estate if you were to pass away without a will? In such circumstances, intestate succession laws in Minnesota determine how your assets are distributed. These rules ensure that your property is transferred to your closest relatives, but the specifics might surprise you. Understanding these laws can help ensure that your wishes are as closely followed as possible, even without a written will.

What Is Intestate Succession?

Intestate succession is the legal process that dictates how your property and assets are distributed if you die without a valid will. In Minnesota, like in many states, the intestate succession laws are designed to ensure that your belongings go to your closest relatives. This process is managed by the probate court, which appoints an administrator to handle the estate according to the state’s guidelines. The rules vary depending on your family situation—whether you have a spouse, children, parents, or other close relatives. Without a will, the court’s decisions may not always align with your personal wishes, making it crucial to understand how these laws operate. This automatic distribution aims to reflect what a typical person might have chosen, though it may not suit everyone’s individual preferences.

Who Inherits in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, the rules of intestate succession clearly define who inherits your assets if you do not leave a will. The primary beneficiary is typically your spouse, who receives the entire estate if there are no descendants (children or grandchildren), or if you have children and all of your children are from you and your surviving spouse. 

If there are children from another relationship, your spouse receives the first $225,000 plus one-half of the balance, with the remainder divided among your children. 

In the absence of a spouse or children, the estate passes to your parents, siblings, or further extended family in a specified order. This hierarchy is designed to prioritize immediate family members, ensuring they are supported after your passing. However, the distribution can become complex with mixed families or distant relatives, emphasizing the importance of a clear estate plan to guide the process according to your wishes.

Special Considerations in Intestate Cases

Intestate succession in Minnesota includes several special considerations that may affect how an estate is distributed. For instance, adopted children are treated the same as biological children under the law, inheriting just as a biological child would. However, stepchildren do not automatically receive an inheritance unless legally adopted. Half-siblings are also entitled to inherit, reflecting their full sibling status under intestate laws. Non-marital children inherit from their mothers and can inherit from their fathers if paternity has been established legally. 

Hypothetical Situations

Consider these hypothetical situations to illustrate Minnesota’s intestate succession laws:

  • Single with Siblings: John, unmarried and childless, passes away with an estate worth $500,000. His parents are also deceased. Under Minnesota law, his estate would be evenly divided among his surviving siblings. If John had three siblings, each would inherit approximately $166,667.
  • Married with Children from a Previous Relationship: Lisa, married with two children from a previous relationship, dies, leaving an estate valued at $800,000. Her spouse would receive the first $225,000 plus half of the remaining balance, totaling $512,500. Her two children would share the remaining $287,500, each receiving $143,750.
  • Married without Children or Parents: Mark, who is married but has no children and both parents have passed away, dies with an estate worth $300,000. In this scenario, his spouse, Anne, inherits the entire estate under Minnesota intestate laws, as there are no other direct heirs.
  • Married with Children from the Current Relationship: David, married with two children with his current spouse, dies, leaving an estate worth $600,000. His spouse would receive the entire estate under the Minnesota laws of intestacy.
  • Widowed with Distant Relatives: Emily, a widow with no children or living close relatives, passes away, leaving an estate valued at $400,000. Her nearest relatives are two cousins. According to Minnesota’s intestate succession laws, the estate would be split equally between the cousins, each inheriting $200,000. This distribution happens because more distant relatives inherit only in the absence of closer familial ties.

Get Help with Minnesota Intestate Succession

At Unique Estate Law, we guide you through the complexities of intestate succession to secure your family’s future. Our team ensures you understand your rights and the implications for your estate. Don’t leave your legacy to chance. Contact us today for a consultation and safeguard your family’s inheritance with confidence.

About the Author
As a Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate attorney I help build and protect families through the adoption, estate planning, and probate processes. I also have experience working with families on issues related to their small businesses. I know how difficult it is to find time to plan for the future and I am here to help walk you through it.