No Will, but a Way … Same-sex partner gets inheritance

This November a voter ballot will be held in Minnesota to determine whether to pass a State Constitutional amendment that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. Amidst this backdrop, Thomas Proehl married James Morrison in 2008 in California.  While living in Minnesota, Mr. Proehl died in 2011 without a will.  The final judicial order can be found here.

In Minnesota, if there is no will or other estate planning devices, a spouse is normally first in line to take property.  However in Minnesota, which has adopted the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), same-sex marriages are not legally recognized.

The Case: Mr. Morrison “Wins” without a will

Hennepin County District Court Referee George Borer ruled that Minnesota’s DOMA law does not prohibit same-sex partners the right to inherit.  So, Mr. Morrison “won” in the sense that he did finally get property rights.

However, he spent over a year muddled in the court system, wasting his time and money.  His personal business was aired out publicly, whether he liked it or not.  And perhaps most importantly, he had to go through all of this in an uncontested case.  In other words, no one was opposing Mr. Morrison’s claim on the property and he still had to endure significant legal roadblocks.

The purpose of this piece isn’t to make any kind of statement one way or another regarding same-sex marriages.  Instead, this is just another example of unexpected problems that can arise when individuals don’t make an adequate estate plan. 

Whether it include a will, the proper trust instruments, a health care directive, a power of attorney, or any other transfer on death documents, a properly drafted estate plan is critical to help your successors avoid these kinds of transfer problems.


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.