Second Marriage? No Will?

Minnesotans in a 2nd marriage that fail to sign a Will before death may fall victim to unintended consequences.

Minnesota law applies when there is no Will, and those laws may not be what the parties to the 2nd marriage expected.

For example, spouses often expect to inherit all of their deceased spouse’s assets even when spouses are in a 2nd marriage. That expectation is wrong if the deceased has children from a 1st marriage and the deceased did not create a Will giving everything to the surviving spouse. When there is no Will, but there are children from the deceased’s 1st marriage, Minnesota law states that the surviving spouse is to receive “the first $225,000” plus ½ of the rest. The other assets go to the deceased’s descendants.

In contrast, the surviving spouse in a 1st marriage situation inherits all of the deceased’s assets when the deceased had no Will.

The statutory outcome cited above that splits the deceased’s assets leads to other questions: When the deceased’s assets are shared between the surviving spouse and the deceased’s children, is the surviving spouse then left with insufficient assets to meet the surviving spouse’s needs? Alternatively, in small estates, does the distribution of “the first $225,000” to the surviving spouse mean that the deceased’s children receive nothing?

Another consideration is whether the deceased wanted to include stepchildren in the inherited bounty. If so, direction to that end must be specifically stated in the deceased’s Will. Without a Will, or without such direction, the stepchildren will be excluded.

Moreover, for blended families, a Revocable Living Trust may be a better solution than relying on just a Will.

Estate planning for blended families is more complicated than for families that are in a 1st marriage with children solely from that marriage. Thus, estate planning is particularly important for blended families. To facilitate a positive outcome for the parents in the 2nd marriage, and for the children of each of them, the parents should consider meeting with an estate planning lawyer to discuss their options.

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Disclaimer: This Blog is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. If you have questions, please seek the advice of an attorney licensed to practice law in the state where you live. Wittenburg Law does not expressly or implicitly warrant the accuracy or reliability of any of the Blog’s contents. An attorney-client relationship is not formed by reading this Blog. If you are interested in Wittenburg Law’s representation of you, you must contact Wittenburg Law for a determination of whether your matter is one for which Wittenburg Law is willing and able to accept representation of you.

Bonnie Wittenburg, Wittenburg Law Office, PLLC, 601 Carlson Parkway, Suite 1050, Minnetonka, MN 55305 952-649-9771 bonnie@bwittenburglaw.com www.bwittenburglaw.com