Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Surviving Spouse Rights Minnesota

Surviving spouses have important rights and benefits under Minnesota law, including:

  • Intestate Rights
  • Elective Share
  • Homestead
  • Exempt Property
  • Family Allowance

Surviving Spouse Rights In Minnesota If There Is No Valid Will

When someone dies without a valid will, they are said to have died intestate.  When someone dies intestate, Minnesota state laws will govern the disposition of their assets upon their death.

Minnesota’s laws governing intestate succession provide that the widow has the right to an intestate share of the property of the deceased spouse when there is no valid will.

Surviving Spouse’s Intestate Share

The intestate share of the surviving spouse is:

  • The entire estate: if (1) no descendant of the decedent survives the decedent; or (2) all of the decedent’s surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse and there is no other descendant of the surviving spouse who survives the decedent;
  • $225,000 plus one-half of the balance: if (1) all descendants of decedent are those of the spouse, and the surviving spouse has at least one descendant who was not also descended from the decedent; or (2) one or more descendants of decedent are not descendants of the spouse.

See Minnesota Statute § 524.2-102.

Elective Share

If a decedent dies with a will, the surviving spouse has the right to elect to take an elective share.  A surviving spouse might elect to take an elective share if the surviving spouse is excluded from the decedent’s will, or is left an amount that would be smaller than the elective share.

The elective share of a surviving spouse is calculated based on an augmented estate, and based on the length of the marriage.

Elective Share Amount

The elective share percentage of the augmented estate is determined according to the following schedule:

Length of the Marriage

Elective Share Percentage

Less than 1 year

Supplemental amount only.

1 year but less than 2 years


2 years but less than 3 years


3 years but less than 4 years


4 years but less than 5 years


5 years but less than 6 years


6 years but less than 7 years


7 years but less than 8 years


8 years but less than 9 years


9 years but less than 10 years


10 years but less than 11 years


11 years but less than 12 years


12 years but less than 13 years


13 years but less than 14 years


14 years but less than 15 years


15 years or more


Minn. Stat. § 524.2-202.

The Augmented Estate

The augmented estate for purpose of the elective share calculation is bigger than the probate estate.

The augmented estate consists of the sum of the values of all property, whether real or personal, movable or immovable, tangible or intangible, wherever situated, that constitute the decedent’s net probate estate, the decedent’s nonprobate transfers to others, the decedent’s nonprobate transfers to the surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse’s property and nonprobate transfers to others.  Minn. Stat. § 524.2-203.

Surviving Spouse Rights, Allowances and Exemptions

In addition, the surviving spouse is also entitled to homestead rights, exempt property up to $15,000, and a reasonable family allowance up to one year if the estate is inadequate to discharge allowed claims, or 18 months if the estate is solvent. See Minn. Stat. § § 524.2-402, 524.2-403, and  524.2-404.

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