For our regular Minnesota readers, last week's post may have raised a question in their minds as to whether they may have elderly loved ones who have been subject to some form of financial scam. In addition to scams involving unnecessary living trusts, elderly Minnesotans can be subject to all kinds of ruses that can leave them in a bad financial state at the end of their lives. This bad financial state in turn means that they have very little to pass on to their loved ones, even if doing so was always their intent.
Under Minnesota law, a person is not required to have a will. However, a will can be a useful item that maps out how a deceased person's estate will be divided up, and can help insure each person receives the correct inheritance. Whether a person is in their 20s or 80s, it's never too early or too late to create a will. After a will is made, there can be many reasons a person might choose to update it.
Those Minnesota residents who either have been through a probate dispute with other family members or who have followed this blog regularly may be wont to think that it is a common occurrence for a disgruntled family member or friend to challenge a deceased person's will.
Minnesota courts don't want to have to second guess what a deceased person meant when they wrote a will, explaining how they want their estate to be distributed after their death. As long as the will was executed with all the formalities and apparently with all the requirements, the court will generally do its best to not interfere. As a result, about 99 percent of wills pass through probate without serious legal issues. But in that remaining one percent, there are many will contests that present thorny legal issues and difficult conflicts.
Minnesota residents have no doubt heard of the debates over federal estate taxes, which pop up every few years in Congress. However these taxes, derided as "the death tax" by opponents, affect relatively few families. Currently, estates can transfer up to $5,250,000 before the federal estate tax kicks in.
Law enforcement and other officials in Minnesota and around the nation have noticed increasing numbers of cases involving the financial exploitation of vulnerable seniors. Sadly, many family members don't even find out about the exploitation until after their loved ones have passed away, and they learn that the deceased's estate has been damaged by scam artists. In these cases, heirs and beneficiaries may file a will contest in court.