Laughing Heirs

We all know that drafting an executing a detailed and custom made will is an essential part of an estate plan.  With a will, you can designate particular beneficiaries, name personal representative candidates, and provide guidance to the court for guardianship of your minor children.  If you do not leave a will or your will is determined to be unenforceable or void, your estate will pass according to the laws of intestacy.  Laws of intestacy provide that your closest relatives end up inheriting your assets.  If they have passed, however, is it possible that some obscure and very distant relative will inherit your estate?  To address this issue, Minnesota passed what is known as a “laughing heir” statute.

A laughing heir is a term used to refer to a person who may be entitled to inherit from your estate, but has such a remote relation to you, would have no reason to actually mourn you upon your death.  In other words, the heir is “laughing all the way to the bank” because he or she has inherited assets, while those who were maybe emotionally bonded to the deceased are left without an inheritance and still mourning.

Tracking down distant relatives can absorb a lot of time and resources for the personal representative and the court.  In addition, it can result in an unfair result, with some remote relative inheriting assets with the actual loved ones leaving empty handed.  In recognition of these issues, the Minnesota legislature passed a laughing heir statute.  This statute eliminates intestate inheritance rights for relatives that are more removed from the deceased than his or her grandparents and their descendants.  In other words, if a relative is related to you only through your great-grandparents or even more distantly would not inherit if you die without an enforceable.  Minnesota statute 524.2-103 provides that the grandparents, aunts, uncles, first cousins, and, of course, immediate family members, may inherit, but anyone more removed may not.  If the deceased passes away with no will and no family member closer than those listed in the statute come forward, then the assets in the estate will pass to the state of Minnesota.

Let us help you understand your rights and responsibilities regarding inheritance.  Call today at (651) 371-9117 for a consultation.

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