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