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How much of a person's estate is a spouse entitled to at death?

St. Paul residents who are married understand how dependent spouses can become on one another for all matters in life. Whether it is financial support, emotional support or otherwise spouses are an integral part of each other's life, which can make it all the more difficult when one spouse dies.

There are many issues that must be taken care of upon a spouse's death. One key issue is administering the spouse's estate, which often means carrying out the provisions of the person's will.

Last week, this blog discussed a situation where children who are omitted in a parent's will can receive a distribution from the estate under certain circumstances. While Minnesota law typically respects a person's wishes set forth in the will, this is one circumstance where the provisions in the will might be altered.

Another circumstance in which wills might not fully control has to deal with the rights of a surviving spouse of the decedent. Minnesota law allows a surviving spouse to receive an elective share from a person's estate under certain circumstances.

The amount of the elective share will vary from case to case, as there are factors set forth under the statute that apply. One primary factor that is considered is the length of time the spouse and the decedent were married to one another.

In fact, the statute sets out a schedule that increases the value of the elective share depending on the duration of the marriage. For example, if the couple was married for a length of one to two years, the surviving spouse can take an elective share in the amount of three percent of the augmented estate, which is calculated under the statute.

On the other hand, a spouse who was married more than 15 years obtains an elective share percentage that is 50 percent of the augmented estate. Accordingly, there is a wide variety in the amount of the elective share, depending on the length of the marriage.

Source: The Office of the Revisor of Statutes, "524.2-202 Elective Share," accessed on May 8, 2015

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