Legal Memorandum: Nonmarital Gift to a Spouse in MN

Issue: Under Minnesota law, can property purportedly conveyed for ‘one dollar and other valuable consideration’ be shown to be a nonmarital gift to one spouse?

Area of Law: Family Law, Tax Law
Keywords: Nonmarital property conveyed; Gift to spouse; Burden of proof
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 448 N.W.2d 892; 400 N.W.2d 371; 562 N.W.2d 797; 385 N.W.2d 1; 378 N.W.2d 49
Cited Statutes: I.R.C. § 6019(a); Prop. Treas. Reg. §.26.6019-I(a).
Date: 02/01/2001

The party alleging that property is nonmarital has the burden of proof.  Coffel v. Coffel, 400 N.W.2d 371, 374 (Minn. Ct. App. 1987).  In at least one instance, the burden of showing that a property was acquired as a gift to one spouse has been met by testimony of one of the parties.  See Nolden v. Nolden, 448 N.W.2d 892, 893-94 (Minn. Ct. App. 1989).  In another instance, testimony of the party, supported by an affidavit from the donor, was sufficient to meet the burden of proof despite testimony from the other party and evidence of joint ownership of some of the property in question.  See Moon v. Moon, 378 N.W.2d 49, 53-54 (Minn. Ct. App. 1985). 

However, the case that probably provides the most guidance for the trial court in this scenario is Olsen v. Olsen, 562 N.W.2d 797 (Minn. 1997).  There the wife claimed that certain real estate had been given to her alone by her uncle.  The uncle had given the property to the wife and husband in joint tenancy.  The uncle had also filed a gift tax return indicating that the property had been gifted to both husband and wife.  Id. at 799.  The Minnesota Supreme Court wrote:

The most important factor in determining whether a […]

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