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Who gets a person's assets if they do not have a will?

Minnesota residents, by and large, like to be in charge of making their own personal and financial decisions. For instance, in dealing with family members on private or sensitive matters, individuals like to have a say in the decision making process.

Yet, many individuals may not have considered one important area in which they have the right to make sensitive decisions that impact themselves and their families. If individuals have not drafted wills that lay out their wishes on what is to happen with their assets and other matters upon their death, they are letting the State decide these issues for them.

Under Minnesota law, a specific procedure is laid out if a person dies without a will, which is known as dying intestate. The statutes direct how the deceased person's property is to be distributed by setting forth different categories of surviving family members who are entitled to the assets.

The person who obtains the primary claim to a deceased person's assets is that person's surviving spouse. The statutes specify what the surviving spouse is to receive, including in situations where the deceased person had children with another person who is not the surviving spouse.

After that, the deceased person's children are directed to receive assets of the estate. If there is no surviving spouse, for example, the children obtain the entire intestate estate. If there are no children, the assets will then go to the deceased person's parents if they are alive, or to other surviving relatives.

Unfortunately, the intestacy statutes may not always mirror the wishes of a deceased person when it comes to the distribution of his or her estate. As a result, it is important to draft a will that sets forth the person's wishes, in order to best ensure those wishes are followed. Moreover, there are other matters that may be addressed through a will other than the straight distribution of assets, and therefore it is all the more helpful to have a will in place to address these issues.

Source: The Office of the Revisor of Statutes, "2014 Minnesota Statutes," accessed on Oct. 17, 2014

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