Intestacy and Estate Planning by GermanLawND


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									A Closer Look at Minnesota and North Dakota
 Intestacy Succession Laws and Why It Is So
 Rjg0   Important In Your Estate Plan


     While many people know that creating an estate plan can allow you to make
     decisions about how you want to leave inheritances, most people don’t realize
     that every state has already made your inheritance decisions for you. Through
     laws of intestate succession, all states predetermine how your property will pass
     after you have died. The only way to avoid these intestacy laws is to create an
     estate plan that enshrines your inheritance choices. Let’s take a closer look at
     intestacy and why it is so important in your estate plan.


     By creating a last will and testament, people in Minnesota and North Dakota can
     make their own inheritance choices. Someone who dies leaving behind a last will
     and testament is said to have died testate. On the other hand, people who die
     without leaving behind such a device are said to have died intestate.

     Intestate succession, therefore, is the manner through which your property is
     transferred to your legal heirs when you have not left behind a valid last will and


     So how do inheritances work under intestate succession laws? Though every
     state has its own set of laws, they all operate in the same basic manner. The
     person responsible for administering your estate, called an administrator or an
     executor, will have to determine who survived you after you die. The closest
     living relative(s) will typically inherit your property. To get a better idea of how
     this works, let’s take a look at several scenarios.

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     For example, let’s say you died without leaving behind a last will and testament.
     At the time of your death you were not married, did not have any children, and
     your closest surviving relative was your father. In this situation, your father
     would inherit everything you own. This is true even if, for example, you had a
     romantic relationship with someone, and had been living with that person
     outside of marriage for the past several decades.

     On the other hand, let’s say you died leaving behind a spouse and children from
     a previous marriage. If you died in North Dakota, your spouse would inherit the
     first $150,000 of your property, plus half of what is left over. Your children would
                                                     then divide the remaining half
                                                     between themselves.

                                                     Finally, let’s say you died with the
                                                     spouse, no children, and two
                                                     surviving parents. In this situation,
                                                     if you died in North Dakota, your
                                                     spouse would inherit the first
                                                     $300,000 of your estate. Whatever
                                                     remained would be divided
     between your spouse, who would receive three quarters of the remainder, and
     your parents, who would receive the remaining quarter.

     Of course, this is only a small number of the possible scenarios of that intestacy
     laws deal with. If a person dies with no close relatives, more distant relatives
     might be entitled to receive all of his or her property.

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     In very rare situations, people who die intestate
     leave behind no identifiable living relatives.                  LIVING TRUSTS
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     Though this doesn’t happen very often, all states
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     who dies intestate who has no identifiable living
     relatives transfers to the state in which they live.
     This final safety net means that it is possible that
     all of your property could transfer to your state
     should you die without a will.


     Intestacy laws also include some relatively
     obscure provisions. For example, every state has
     a survivorship law that must be met in order for
     someone to inherit from a person who dies
     intestate. In both North Dakota and Minnesota, a             A Living Trust Can Provide
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German Law Group                 Intestacy and Estate Planning                                   4
     have any children, and don’t have any living relatives other than a brother and a
     sister. You and your brother are involved in a car accident. You die, and your
     brother dies four days and 23 hours later. In this situation, your sister would
     stand to receive your entire estate because your brother did not survive you for
     at least five days. If your brother had lived for another hour or two, he and your
     sister would each inherit half of your estate.


     It’s important to highlight the idea that intestate succession laws apply to any
     estate that does not have a valid last will and testament. Validity means that the
     will you make meets the legal requirements of the state in which you live.

     So, for example, if you live in Minnesota, you will have to create a will that meets
     the legal certain standards. If your will fails to meet the standards, a court will
     deem it invalid. When this happens, it will be as if you had died without leaving
     behind any will at all. So, your estate will then be distributed in accordance with
     the intestate succession rules of Minnesota, instead of the wishes you expressed
     in your invalid last will. (This is also one of the primary reasons why creating a
     will, though simple, must be done carefully and with precision.)


     Intestacy laws are very reasonable. They allow state courts to apply a uniform
     set of rules that predetermine who inherit your property should you die without
     leaving behind an estate plan. If we didn’t have these laws, courts would
     essentially have to try to determine what each person’s wishes were. They might

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     have to hold lengthy hearings and trials or rely on unreliable evidence or
     testimony just to try to determine who should inherit property.

     Intestacy laws allow courts to
     avoid these problems and make
     inheritance laws fair. Because
     intestacy laws also allow
     residents to make their own
     inheritance choices, it falls to
     each person to make inheritance
     choices or let the state make
     them for them. By making an
     estate plan that includes a valid
     last will and testament, you can
     ignore the states intestacy laws
     completely, and make whatever
     inheritance choices you desire.

German Law Group                  Intestacy and Estate Planning                  6
     About the Author
     Raymond J. German
                              As an attorney in Minnesota and North Dakota, Raymond
                              J. German provides a wide range of estate planning and
                              title services to his clients, with a primary focus on
                              helping them provide for the security of their loved ones,
                              reduce estate taxes and avoid or at least minimize the
                              costs and delays of probate, all with a well-crafted estate
                              plan. Mr. German defines the mission statement for
                              Raymond J. German, LTD. Law Firm as "Helping one
                              family at a time pass on values, beliefs and finances, that
                              can be shared for generations to come." Mr. German is
     well aware of the growing importance of estate planning and dedicates himself
     to informing the public of the need for careful attention to their specific
     situations. He is a frequent speaker on a variety of estate planning topics,
     regularly presenting educational seminars for the public as well as private
     Raymond J. German approaches each challenge with not just solid expertise, but
     also remarkable enthusiasm and vigor. By constantly seeking simpler, better, and
     more effective ways of doing things, he continues to make a real difference in
     the lives of families and on the way estate planning is practiced by attorneys
     around the country.
                                German Law Group, PC
                 GRAND FORKS                                    FERTILE
        2650 32nd Avenue South, Suite O           105 North Mill Street, P.O. Box 127
            Grand Forks, ND 58201                          Fertile, MN 56540
            Phone: (701) 738-0060                      Phone: (218) 945-6913
           Toll Free: (800) 774-7576                  Toll Free: (800) 774-7576
              Fax: (701) 738-0064                       Fax: (218) 945-6914

German Law Group                Intestacy and Estate Planning                              7

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