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How corporate shares of stock play out in probate litigation

Last week's post discussed a recent case in which the outcome of a significant probate dispute will depend on who owns one share of stock in a multimillion dollar company. The post raises important questions as to how stock shares and other similar property gets distributed upon a person's death, and how this process could play in to probate litigation.

The important thing for Minnesotans to remember is that stocks often do not pass from one person to another under the terms of a will. As one major company discusses, stocks often are held by at least two people at the same time as joint tenants, meaning that when one person dies, the other (or others) take over his or her ownership shares.

In some cases, a person can also make his or her stock automatically transfer to a named beneficiary upon death without regard to what a will or a probate court says.

While these sorts of alternatives can be very helpful, they also are not immune to being the cause of probate litigation. For example, as already mentioned, stocks can but do not have to pass to another person outside the terms of the will. One question that a person can raise is whether the stocks should pass under a will, the terms of which could dictate a very different than, say, the rules governing a jointly held stock certificate.

Moreover, a person can still continue to challenge transfers of stock as based on things like undue influence or fraud. When the specter of litigation arises over shares of stock in this state, it may be best to consult with an experienced Minnesota probate litigation attorney. The stakes can be very high.

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