A Tale Of A Minnesota Stepfamily
Here is a tale about a Minnesota stepfamily, which can happen all too often in reality. After Dad passed away, Mom lived by herself for a while and eventually met someone new. Six years ago, she remarried; this time to a man who was very different from her first husband. Her two adult children, Jeff and Jenny, did not get along with their new stepfather Seth, Mom's second husband.
Mom Passes Away
After Mom was diagnosed with lung cancer, it seemed like Seth barely even tried to update Jeff and Jenny on Mom's health status. Arguments ensued. When Mom passed away, Seth told the adult children after the funeral that he was getting all of Mom's assets, including her house and savings.
Is Their Stepfather Stealing From Them?
Jeff and Jenny think that their stepfather Seth is stealing their share of the inheritance. Who is entitled to the inheritance under Minnesota law?
As a probate attorney, this is a commonly asked question.
The answer is: It depends.
If Mom had properly drafted a Will, she could have left her assets to Seth or her children or divided them between the two. If Mom had not properly drafted the Will, it may not be valid. A Will can be legally challenged in that situation.
Was There Joint Tenancy?
If Mom and her second husband had decided to keep their assets together in joint tenancy, then Seth may receive all of the assets. In the absence of a Will, the surviving spouse (Seth) can get his statutory share, which could be most or all of Mom's assets. If the home was titled in Mom's name, Seth might be entitled to live in the house for the rest of his life, after which the home could go to the children.
Stepfamily probate questions frequently become complex, because each case is different. The issues can become even more difficult to sort out when there are several marriages of the decedent (person who has passed away), and even more so if they have children from a previous marriage.
A History Of Stepfamily Quarrels
In the old fairy tale of "The Gold Bearded Man" a dying king's wish is for his queen to honor him by taking care of their son. No sooner had the king passed away than the queen re-married a new man. This stepfather was very cruel to the son, who later becomes a king in his own right by demonstrating his kindness to others.
History is full of examples of fighting or bitterness between stepparents and stepchildren.
After a death in the family, clashes between stepparents and stepchildren can be especially heated. When that happens, it is a smart idea for them to consult with an experienced probate attorney. The manner of the estate distribution depends on the particular details of each situation. If the stepfamily members receive sound legal advice, this can often avoid unnecessary fights and illegal actions.
Bill Peterson is a Minnesota Probate Attorney with over 40 years of experience as a lawyer. His firm, Peterson Law Office, is pleased to help sort out the intricacies of Minnesota Probate. For more information, please visit http://www.mnprobate.com or call toll free at 952-641-7312.
The contents of this article are for information only and is not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning.