Dying Intestate in Minnesota: The choices you lose by not having a will

What Intestacy Means

Dying intestate means dying without a valid will.  If you die  without a will and without any other instruments to dispose of your property, the State of Minnesota will decide for you how to distribute your property.

What happens to my property if I die intestate in Minnesota? 

State statutes will specifically determine who gets your property.  Sometimes, this will coincidentally be the same people you would have given property to anyway.  Often times, however, it will not be.  According to Minnesota statute, the surviving spouse may get the entire estate or at least 1/2 of the estate, depending on circumstances.  

After the spouse, the state will maintains a list of relatives who will take the estate in the following order:

  1. To the deceased’s descendants (children first, then grandchildren and further down the list if the children died already)
  2. Parents of the deceased if they are still alive
  3. To descendants of the deceased’s parents (brothers and sisters, half-brothers and sisters, etc.)
  4. And on down the list to more distant relations

A will is important if you want to give a certain piece of personal property to someone, like a family heirloom.  A will is also useful if you want to specifically disinherit someone (so they don’t get property when they otherwise would if you died intestate).

One myth to address: There are some who believe that the state keeps all of your money if you die intestate.  This is generally false.  Unless you have absolutely no heirs (no children, grandchildren, spouse, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, etc.), the state doesn’t keep your money.

Other Considerations: Minor Children and Disinheriting Relatives

In addition to losing the right to decide who gets your property, anyone who dies intestate loses the ability to decide who will raise their minor children as well as who will oversee the distribution of his or her estate.  The former point may be especially important if the deceased was the last living parent or if both parents die simultaneously and both don’t have wills.

Regardless of how you set it up, a will is often an important part of any estate plan.


All of the materials available in this blog is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain legal advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between Majeski Law, LLC and anyone who uses it.


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Hello. I'm Matt Majeski. I'm a divorce lawyer and family law attorney. In 2009, I founded Majeski Law, LLC. Equipped with a degree in Law & Psychology, I decided to focus my law practice solely on divorce and family law matters. Although I serve individuals throughout the state of Minnesota, most of my clients live in Ramsey, Dakota, Washington, Anoka, and Chisago county. I've been Co-Chair of the Family Law Section of the Ramsey County Bar Association since 2014. In addition, I've been an active member of the Minnesota State, Ramsey County, and Washington County Bar Association since 2009, and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts since 2012. Besides volunteering at the Washington County Legal Advice Clinic, through the Volunteer Lawyers Network (in Minneapolis, Minnesota) I've also been able to serve a number of individuals pro bono in several civil matters. When I'm not practicing law, my two daughters keep me busy running around, stepping on Legos, and playing computer games. In addition, those who know me on a personal level, know I have a deep appreciation for Star Wars and Tootsie-Rolls, and that I humor my wife's love for, The Packers.