Half-Siblings and Intestate Succession

/ August 22, 2017

Ongoing changes to family structures in modern society have increased the occurrence of half-blood survivors of decedents.  When a decedent dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.”  Each state has enacted intestate-succession laws, which provide rules for the distribution of assets in the absence of a will.  These intestacy laws dictate what share of a decedent’s estate a half-blood survivor, such as a half-sibling, will receive.

Today, many states have adopted intestacy laws that treat surviving whole-blood and half-blood siblings of the decedent the same.  In Minnesota, Minn. Stat. § 524.2-107 provides that “[r]elatives of the half blood inherit the same share they would inherit if they were of the whole blood.”  In other words, if A dies without a will, leaving only one full-sibling and two half-siblings, each sibling inherits an equal share of A’s estate.

In other states, such as Florida, intestacy laws provide that half-blood siblings receive half as much as whole-blood siblings.  For example, B dies intestate leaving one full-blood sibling, C, and two half-blood siblings, D and E. Under Florida’s statutory scheme, C would receive ½ of B’s estate, while D and E each receive ¼ of B’s estate.

Additional approaches to the treatment of half-blood survivors exist in the United States and result in half-blood siblings inheriting as a representative of the parent in common with the decedent (e.g., Iowa); half-blood siblings receiving the same share as whole-blood siblings, with an exclusion when the half-blood siblings do not share blood with the ancestor from which the decedent directly inherited the property (e.g., Nevada); and half-blood siblings inheriting nothing when a whole-blood sibling of the same degree exists (i.e., Mississippi).

While Minnesota’s intestate-succession rules may align with the desires of the decedent in some circumstances, not everyone intends for their whole-blood and half-blood siblings to receive equal shares of their estate.  As the definition of “family” moves further away from the prototypical nuclear family, executing an effective plan to govern the distribution of your estate and to avoid intestacy laws becomes increasingly important.  Contact a Minnesota estate planning attorney to ensure that your loved ones and assets are protected.

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