Does each child in a family have a right to equal inheritance?

On Behalf of | Dec 11, 2023 | Estate Planning

The details included in an estate plan can give people closure and ways to benefit from a legacy carefully crafted by a testator before their death. Yet, when people are unhappy with someone’s will, that can cause conflict among family members.

Disputes about estate plans often start with a sense of disappointment about the terms that someone has set. For example, someone with multiple siblings in Minnesota might assume that they will each inherit an equal portion of their parents’ estate. Some people will become very disappointed when they realize that one sibling inherited far more than everyone else or that a parent disinherited one or more of their children.

Children usually have no guaranteed inheritance rights

Although people often feel entitled to inherit from someone’s estate, most family members do not have a strong legal right to inherit anything from family members. The only person with an absolute right under Minnesota probate law to inherit from an estate is the spouse of the deceased.

If someone leaves estate planning paperwork that disinherits their spouse, the surviving spouse can challenge those documents and claim their statutory right of inheritance. Children do not have that same protection under the law. Instead, what they inherit depends entirely on the terms that their parents set in their estate plan. Children cannot contest an estate plan simply because they are unhappy about an uneven inheritance.

There are two exceptions to this rule. The first is when someone dies without a will. Intestate succession laws govern the distribution of assets when someone does not have a will. Siblings often receive an equal inheritance if someone dies without a will. The other exception is when most of the children in the family receive resources from the estate but one or more children are not included by name in testamentary documents. Someone not included in the list of beneficiaries but not explicitly disinherited could contest the will and claim that their omission was a mistake.

Many people damage their relationships and waste estate resources fighting for terms that they have no guarantee of obtaining. Understanding what probate law says about the rights of children in Minnesota may help people determine whether they should take legal action to explore their concerns in contentious ways or not.