Under Minn. Stat. § 524.3-101 real property devolves at death of testator to devisee even if through a residuary clause and not a specific devise

Estate of Howard Arnold Laymon v. Minnesota Premier Properties, LLC, ___ N.W.2d ___, (Minn. 2018) filed June 21, 2018 upholding 903 N.W.2d 6, (Minn.App. 2017)(A17-0162) filed October 9, 2017. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals decision in most respects, but did not uphold all the reasoning of the Court of Appeals. The facts in this case are quite cumbersome related to the transfer of title between subsequent parties with multiple names. Dad bought the property with a mortgage. Dad died. Before the estate was probated foreclosure action was started. The will devised everything in equal shares to the kids. Before the probate was started, one of the kids deeded his interest in the property to a third party for $10,000 (and the deeded interest changed hands in various ways after that). The sister then started a probate. The sister sought a quiet title/slander of title claim against the 3rd parties. The general argument was that the brother could not deed his interest in the land to the third parties because the real estate was still “subject to administration.” The court did a nice job of slowly going through the points of law.  First, Minnesota law is quite clear that title to real estate vests at death. In re Beachside I Homeowners Ass’n, 802 N.W.2d, 771 (Minn.App. 2011)(a decree is not needed before title vests); Bengtson v. Setterberg, 35 N.W.2d 623 (Minn. 1949); now codified in Minn. Stat. § 524.3-101. That code provision states that: “Upon death, a person’s real and personal property devolves to the persons to whom it is devised by last will…”.  The Supreme Court held that the persons to whom the property devolves includes the residuary beneficiaries of an estate.  But the argument was made that since the Personal Representative has the power of administration that the devisee under the will cannot convey title. The court of appeals found that the personal representative has “power over the property” not title over the property.  Hence, title is encumbered during administration (which can result in divestment of title by sale for example) but the devisee has title and the PR has power over title. Title vests at death and the PR’s right to administration does not prevent the vesting of title.  But the Supreme Court ruled that it did not have to answer that question because the personal representative never exercised any powers of administration over the property inconsistent with the respondent’s interests, so the issue is not before the court. The statute does not create exceptions for residuary beneficiaries that result in a lapse of title or loss of title. The district court summary judgment is reversed in part to reflect the effect of this holding and remanded for further proceedings.

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About Robert McLeod

I can help you fight a will, fight a power of attorney, will contest, fight a guardianship, fight a conservatorship, create or revoke powers of attorney, wills or revocable trusts. What is probate? I can answer that for you. I can help you with all your probate needs.
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