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Changes to Minnesota law in 2016

    The Legislature passed many statutes in the recent session.  Chapter 135, Laws of 2016 contained many provisions relating to wills, trusts and probate .  This memo will summarize those and other changes.

    Section 22 increased the share to a surviving spouse when the decedent left no Will, but left descendants by another person or if the survivor has descendants by another person.  Except for the homestead, the survivor would receive $225,000 plus one-half of the balance.  The previous formula was $150,000 plus one-half of the balance.

    Section 23 increased the supplemental elective share for a surviving spouse.  Statute 524.2-202 protects a surviving spouse from receiving too small a share from his or her spouse. 
A valid antenuptial agreement may control this situation.  If there is no valid antenuptial agreement, the spouse should receive at least a share of the “augmented estate”.  The percentage increases with the length of the marriage.  The base amount has increased from $50,000 to $75,000.     

    Section 24 applies to the situation where a person marries after signing a Will.  The spouse, of course would not be named in the Will.  The statute now has more clarification, about what might be evidence to determine if the spouse might inherit the intestate share mentioned in Section 22, above.  

    Section 25 increases the value that a spouse or children can claim from an estate, without paying unsecured creditors.  A spouse can now claim an automobile of any value and $15,000 of tangible personal property and cash.  Minnesota Statute 524.2-403.  

    Section 26 increases the possible family allowance in an estate.  The allowance is like a support payment from estate property.  It can be allowed for up to 12 or 18 months and now up to $2300 per month.  It can be awarded to a spouse, or for minor children the decedent was obligated to support, and children who were in fact being supported by the decedent.  

    Section 31 increases the amount which can be collected by an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property.  Often, financial accounts have instructions to transfer to someone or pay to someone after death.  If an account or policy was individually owned and did not have any beneficiary instruction, the account or policy is considered a “probate” asset.  Of course, it is not reasonable to require people to go to probate court to collect small accounts.  When this law was first passed, it allowed a survivor to sign an Affidavit, 30 or more days after death, and collect an account, policy, refund, vehicle or other benefit up to $5000.  Over the years, this has now increased to $75,000.   This is a handy tool to transfer title to an automobile, or collect bank accounts, financial accounts, refunds, etc.  This cannot be used to change title to real property.

    When we discuss an estate with a family, we review how various statutes and rules might be employed to protect the estate for the family.  

    A person can now put a designation on their watercraft that it shall be transferred on death to a certain person or persons.  This is called “TOD”.  You might recognize this at your financial offices, where you have given a similar instruction.  For some reason automobiles are not covered by this.  You can designate a certain child or other person to receive boats.  Often we can use a collection affidavit to transfer title on a boat, but then it might go to all children equally.

    Clients can now create a trust for animals.  Minnesota was the last state to approve this explicitly.  The amount set aside can not be unreasonable for the purpose.  The animal must be living during the client’s life.  Funds remaining at the death of the animal(s) would either go to specified persons, or charities or to heirs.  The office that manages Medical Assistance has opposed this type of trust, because it might reduce or delay their collection of a lien for the medical assistance granted to the person or spouse.