MN Wills & Trusts | Different Ways to Hold Title to Property

by Flanders Law Firm LLC on October 30, 2017

Titling of Property in MinnesotaDifferent ways to hold title to property

A recent article in the Washington Post involved a letter from a reader asking whether she and her husband needed to create a trust to ensure that, in the event of eithers death, the other would be guaranteed to take ownership of the family home seamlessly. The author of the article dove into the issue of the trust, but quickly glossed over the underlying issue of property ownership. Though trusts can be useful in a multitude of circumstances and should be discussed with your estate-planning attorney, they may not always be necessary depending on the way in which title to your property is held.

What options are there? And what is the legal significance of each type? To learn more, keep reading.

Married Couples

The first way of holding title to real property (meaning real estate) is to keep it in you or your significant others name. Under this approach, the property is legally owned by the one person whose name is on the title. This means even if youre married the property is legally yours, not jointly held. This is a perfectly acceptable way of owning property, but there are a few important downsides. First, if something happens and youre incapacitated, theres no one else empowered to make decisions about the property.

Even with a will in place naming your spouse or another loved one as the eventual recipient, this does not come into play during incapacitation. Instead, its likely that a court would get involved and appoint someone to oversee the property, a potentially cumbersome process. Another downside is that in the event of your death, the house will almost assuredly pass through the probate system, something that costs money and wastes time.

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship

A second way of holding title to property is as joint tenants with right of survivorship (often abbreviated as JTWROS). JTWROS is the most common way that property is held by married couples and its popular for a reason. With JTWROS, you and the other owner (usually a spouse) are seen as co-owners. You each hold power over the property and, in the event the other co-owner dies, full ownership transfers automatically to the surviving owner without the need for probate. This saves both time and money and seems inherently fair when considering a jointly acquired piece of real estate. That said, there can be problems with this too. For one thing, by taking on a co-owner you give up control. Though this may be fine between spouses, another occasion where JTWROS is used is by parents and their adult children. If the child gets into debt or other legal troubles, the co-ownership could endanger your home as he or she would be considered a rightful owner and thus his or her ownership is subject to claims by creditors.

Tenancy in Common

Tenancy in common is yet another way of holding title to real property. Tenants in common exist when multiple owners each own a percentage of a property. Each owner can do what he or she wishes with their share, including leaving their share to their heirs. Though this allows multiple people to jointly own a single piece of property, it differs in a crucial way from JTWROS. In a tenancy in common, if an owner dies, the shares of that person do not automatically revert to other owners. Instead, the shares of the one owner will be distributed to the owners heirs, meaning that ownership likely continues to stay divided rather than unifying after death. This can make it difficult if not impossible to make decisions about property when there are multiple owners forced to reach agreement.

Tenancy by the Entirety

A fourth way of holding property is known as tenancy by the entirety. This is only allowed in some states and typically reserved for married couples. Like with joint tenants, if one spouse passes away his or her ownership passes to the other spouse. Also like joint tenants, this passage occurs automatically and without the help of probate. A difference with tenancy by the entirety is that one spouse is unable to transfer his or her share of the ownership to another person unless the other spouse signs off. One benefit of this is that it protects the property from potential claims from outsiders, including creditors.

Finally, another way of holding title to property occurs in only nine states across the U.S. where community property is a recognized legal concept. In these states, each partner owns half of the real property. Just like with a tenancy in common, each of the owners is able to distribute his or her half of the property to someone else, unless the community property is held with the right of survivorship.

Minnesota Estate Planning Lawyers

An experiencedMinnesota estate planning lawyercan help walk you through theprobate process, answering questions along the way. For more information on estate planning in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contactJoseph M. FlandersofFlanders Law Firmat(612) 424-0398.



What Is a Valid Will in Minnesota?

by Flanders Law Firm LLC on October 25, 2017

Will Contests in MinnesotaWhat is a Valid Will in Minnesota?

It is very important that people understand that Wills need to be drafted and executed in the proper, legal manner. If the legal requirements are not met, a court of law could invalidate what people believed was a proper Will. Minnesota law has very clear language on what constitutes a valid Will.

If you have any questions about what constitutes a valid will in Minnesota, you should consult with your estate planning attorney.

Minnesota law on valid Wills

The law or statute which explains the proper execution of a Will is contained in Minnesota Statute section 524.2-502.

Specifically, the statute provides that, in order for a Will to be valid, the Will must be executed properly.


Except as provided in sections524.2-506and524.2-513, a will must be:

(1) in writing;

(2) signed by the testator or in the testator’s name by some other individual in the testator’s conscious presence and by the testator’s direction or signed by the testator’s conservator pursuant to a court order under section524.5-411; and

(3) signed by at least two individuals, each of whom signed within a reasonable time after witnessing either the signing of the will as described in clause (2) or the testator’s acknowledgment of that signature or acknowledgment of the will.

As we can see in the above language, certain legal requirements must be met to make a Will valid in Minnesota. Please also keep in mind that different states in the United States have different laws. What constitutes a valid Will in Florida or Arizona may not constitute a validly executed Will under Minnesota law.

Further legal requirements for a valid Will

There are other pertinent statutes which instruct us on what constitutes a valid Will in Minnesota. As we read above, to be valid, a Will must be executed according to certain formalities required by statute. A will that was not executed in accordance with the statutory requirements will not be admitted to probate. “If evidence concerning execution of an attested will which is not self-proved is necessary in contested cases, the testimony of at least one of the attesting witnesses, if within the state competent and able to testify, is required. Minnesota Statute 524.3-406(a).

What are the above laws important? The answer may be obvious, but it is true that laws are required when people fight over whether a Will was valid or not. Fighting over the validity of a Will is often referred to by lawyers as a Will contest

Will Contests in Minnesota and the Burden of Proof

We also know that when one person says that a deceased person did have a valid Will and another person disagrees with them, the proponent of the Will has the burden of proof.

Minnesota Statute, section 524.3-407 tells us that, in contested cases, proponents of a will have the burden of establishing proof of due execution in all cases.

Therefore, the proponent of a Will must first prove their case to a court of law. If they do not meet their burden of proof, the Will will presumably be declared invalid and the court will authorize what is a called an intestate probate administration. This is important because the intestate probate administration may have very different results in terms of where the deceaseds persons money and property goes versus a valid Will. Some people could receive the whole estate or they could receive nothing.

Minnesota Probate Attorneys and Lawyers

If you have questions about the validity of a Will in Minnesota, a probate attorney should be consulted. Please contact Joseph M. Flanders at Flanders Law Firm LLC for further information about Wills, probates, and Will validity. Call today for a free consultation at 612-424-0398.



Common Mistakes Made When Handling Your Own Minnesota Estate Planning

October 19, 2017

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Minnesota Probate Law | Subject Matter Jurisdiction

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MN Estate Planning | Titling of Property in Minnesota

September 20, 2017

A recent article in the Washington Post involved a letter from a reader asking whether she and her husband needed to create a trust to ensure that, in the event of eithers death, the other would be guaranteed to take ownership of the family home seamlessly. The author of the article dove into the issue […]

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Time Limits for Probating a Will in Minnesota

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Typically, when we discuss timing and probate, the issue concerns how fast (or slow) the probate court is likely to move. Though this is a common question, and a good one to understand, for some people moving quickly may not be what theyre most concerned about. In such cases, the question is not how fast […]

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Minnesota Wills | The Dangers Of Estate Planning On Your Own

August 9, 2017

Many people understand the importance of creating an estate plan and the risks that can come from failing to do so. In an attempt to get their ducks in a row, some might decide to try a DIY approach, going online and paying some internet legal document creation company for a template will, trust or […]

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Minnesota Revocable Trusts | Trust Law

June 29, 2017

There are all kinds of trusts floating around out in the world: revocable trusts, irrevocable trusts, charitable trusts, special needs trusts, spendthrift trusts, asset protection trusts, constructive trusts, etc., etc. With so many options, it can be hard to understand which is which and what one or ones are worth considering given your particular circumstances. […]

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Free Consultation | Minnesota Wills and Trusts

May 2, 2017

The firm is happy to announce that we are now offering discounted Wills and Trusts. We will only be doing this for a limited time. Please contact the firm to get started with your free consultation. Ask about the discount when you call at 612-424-0398 Joseph M. Flanders and the firm work with clients from every […]

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