I wrote the book on Minnesota probate.

What happens if you die without a will on record?

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2023 | Estate Planning |

There is always another excuse that someone can find to justify putting off estate planning a little bit longer. At first, they went to wait until after their wedding. Then they want to wait until they have stopped adding children to the family. Realistically, anyone who is over the age of 18 and who has any property to their name could benefit from an estate plan, but most adults do not have anything in place.

It is quite common for people to delay the planning process too long. They may experience a medical emergency or even die without having any living or testamentary documents for their protection. It is quite a bit more common than people realize for otherwise responsible adults in Minnesota to die with no will or estate plan.

These people may assume that their loved ones will inherit their property, but that isn’t always what happens. What happens if someone dies without a will?

State law determines the descent of their property

Minnesota law already has a solution in place for those who die without a will. Intestate succession laws determine the inheritance rights of the surviving family members. When someone dies without a will, their spouse and children have specific protections under Minnesota law.

Those without a spouse can expect their children to inherit everything, and those without children or spouses will see their property likely transfer to their parents when they die. The courts will arrange for that property to transfer to the closest immediate family members in accordance with state law.

Unmarried individuals and those without children may end up leaving property for their parents, siblings or more distant family members when they die without estate planning documents in place. There is little nuance to such laws, and the outcome may leave those closest to the deceased without any kind of inheritance due to the lack of a legal relationship.

People can always update documents after their creation

Procrastination about estate planning is not very justifiable, especially because there’s no rule that says an individual can only create documents once and then must live with those terms regardless of what happens.

Testators, provided they still retain their testamentary capacity, always have the option of going back to update their documents if they want to add or remove beneficiaries and property. Understanding what happens to an estate when there are no testamentary documents can motivate someone to stop putting off the estate planning process.