When a person dies, friends, relatives and even charitable organizations may be entitled to inherit his property. Minnesota allows its residents to make wills to choose beneficiaries to inherit their estate. Additionally, certain property will pass to a beneficiary automatically upon the person’s death. If property does not have a named beneficiary, or if the person failed to make a will before his death, the person’s estate will pass according to Minnesota intestate succession laws.
Minnesota law requires that a testator (a person making a will) be at least 18 years old and “of sound mind,” meaning completely competent. The will must be in writing ,and contain the testator’s name and address, the property in the testator’s estate, the beneficiaries who will receive the property upon his death, an executor to manage the distribution of property upon the testator’s death, and the testator’s signature. The testator must sign his will in the presence of two witnesses who must be at least 18 years old, and must attest to the testator’s identity and competence.
Minnesota law does not allow a testator to disinherit his spouse. If a surviving spouse is not named as a beneficiary in the testator’s will, she can seek her “elective share” from the court when the will is submitted to the probate court. The court, at its discretion, can award the surviving spouse up to one half of the estate, depending upon the duration of the surviving spouse’s marriage to the testator.
Not all property can be included in a decedent’s will. If the decedent owned a life insurance policy, the beneficiary named in that policy will automatically receive the proceeds upon the decedent’s death and submission of the death certificate. Any other property with a named beneficiary, such as property in a trust or a retirement account, is also distributed to the named beneficiary. The decedent cannot use his will to alter the named beneficiary. Additionally, if any property is owned jointly, including real estate or a bank account, the surviving joint owner automatically inherits the decedent’s share of the property.
If a person dies without a will, an administrator will be appointed to pay any funeral costs, debts and other expenses. The remainder of the estate will pass to the decedent’s relatives according to intestate succession laws. A surviving spouse is entitled to inherit the entire estate if the decedent did not have children or if the children are all also the surviving spouse’s children, according to Section 524.2-102(1)(i) and (ii) of the Minnesota Statutes. Under 524.2-102(2), if any children are not the surviving spouse’s, the spouse will inherit $150,000 plus half the balance of the estate and the children will inherit the other half of the estate. If no surviving spouse exists, the decedent’s children are the first to inherit and will share the estate equally, as set forth in Minnesota Statute 524.2-103(1). The decedent’s parents are the next to inherit if no children exist; and if the parents are already deceased, the decedent’s siblings can inherit the estate.