Minnesota Probate Law | Testate v. Intestate?

Testate v. IntestateTestate v. Intestate

Did the person die testate or intestate? What will the decedent’s share of the intestate amount to? Were there any named beneficiaries? If these terms seem unfamiliar, that is natural.

They are terms commonly used in relation to wills, trusts and probate proceedings. Although the arcane language can seem intimidating, it is very manageable. The purpose of this article is to explain what intestate means, discuss case law in Minnesota, and propose how to avoid intestate succession in your own family.

In plain English, intestate succession refers to a person who dies and does not leave a will. Where the individual has neglected to leave a will, Minnesota provides for a statutory remedy for disposition of assets in the event of intestate succession. Under Minnesota law, an intestate estate is “any part of the decedent’s estate not allowed to the decedent’s spouse or descendants and not disposed of by will.” Minn. Stat. § 524.2-101(a). Therefore, the intestate estate will pass to the decedent’s heirs. As always, there is a statutory provision in Minnesota defining heirs as those entitled to intestate succession. Minn. Stat. 524.1-201(28).

Although it can vary, heirs are generally thought of as relatives to the decedent. Minnesota statutes provide for intestate succession as well. Of course, there are more arcane legal words. For example, after a spouse, Minnesota intestate succession next devises to issue. “Issue” is a legal term for a decedent’s lineal decedents.

Minnesota Probate Case Law

An intestate will may spring up issues to unsuspecting heirs. In re Beachside I Homeowners Assn’s, 802 N.W.2d 771 (2011) is an example of this. The decedent passed away intestate, thus triggering Minnesota’ intestate succession process. Id. at 772.

Therefore, under the succession statute, one half of the condominium passed to the decedent’ brother, and the other half went to the decedent’s nephews. Id. This may have been more than the decedent’s nephew bargain for, as the nephew fell behind on the payment, causing a tax lien to be placed on the property. Id. Even though this result may not have been beneficial to the heir, the Court of Appeals walked through the logic for why the heir maintained a valid interest in the property. The Court of Appeals explained, “in the absence of [probate] the heirs and devises are entitled to intestate succession . . . intestacy may establish title thereto by proof of decedent’s ownership and death, and their relationship to the decedent.” Id. at 774.

In re Beachside exemplifies why leaving a testate will if preferable for those considering these issues. The nephew inherited a property that he could not maintain and pay for, likely causing a huge headache for those involved. Generally, leaving a testate will is preferable.

For those considering such matters, contact a knowledgeable Minnesota probate attorney for assistance.

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