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What is a surviving spouse entitled to under Minnesota law?

Many St. Paul couples depend on one another in many different ways. Whether it is emotional support, financial support or otherwise, couples often build their lives around one another over the years.

This support does not end at death. Couples often share in the ownership of property, for example, and therefore it is essential that the surviving member of the relationship be able to keep owning and using that property.

Last week, this blog discussed some of these estate planning considerations and how they can vary when it comes to married and unmarried couples. While the focus there was on unmarried couples, it is important as well for married couples to understand how Minnesota law operates with respect to what a

surviving spouse is entitled to at death.

Spouses can provide for their significant others in their estate plans. However, when they fail to do so, Minnesota law provides for the distribution of assets according to statute.

Under the intestacy statute, a surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate of a deceased spouse if there are no descendants of the deceased spouse or if all of the surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse. Accordingly, the situation is relatively easy to figure out when the surviving spouse is the only survivor, or whether the deceased spouse only has children with the surviving spouse.

If the surviving spouse has surviving descendants who are not descendants of the decedent, such as where the deceased spouse has children from another marriage, it changes the situation. In that case, the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $150,000 of the estate, as well as one-half of the balance of the estate.

Source: The Office of the Revisor of Statutes, "2014 Minnesota Statutes," accessed on April 18, 2015

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