When a family member or loved one dies it can be difficult to focus on anything but the emotional impact of their death. Someone, however, must focus on the legal ramifications. If you are that person, either because the decedent appointed you to be the Executor of the estate or by default, you need to get started with the administration of the estate as soon as possible. To help you, the Minnesota probate attorneys at German Law created a step-by-step guide to navigating probate in Minnesota.
What Is Probate?
When someone dies, the money and other assets they owned at the time of death make up their “estate.” People also may owe money to creditors when they pass away. Probate is the legal process that oversees the identification, valuation, and distribution of estate assets and allows creditors the opportunity to make claims against the estate. If the decedent had a Last Will and Testament, probate also authenticates that Will and/or gives people the opportunity to challenge the validity of the Will.
Minnesota Guide to Probate
Just as every person is a unique individual, the probate process is unique for every estate left behind when someone dies. As such, you should consult with an experienced probate attorney if you find yourself responsible for probating an estate. The following guide, however, should give you an idea of what to expect during the probate of an estate in Minnesota:
- Locate estate planning documents. Look for originals copies of a Will, trust agreement, life insurance policies, and other estate planning documents.
- Secure and inventory assets. Start making a list of estate assets and do what you can to secure them.
- Consult with an attorney. To reduce the likelihood of costly and time-consuming mistakes, always consult with an experienced probate attorney before moving forward with the probate process.
- Separate assets into probate and non-probate. Some assets bypass probate and can be distributed to beneficiaries without having to wait for the conclusion of probate. Examples of non-probate assets include trust assets, proceeds of a life insurance policy, and accounts with a “payable on death (POD)” designation.
- Order certified death certificates. Order several certified death certificates from the Minnesota Department of Health.
- Determine if formal probate is necessary. As a general rule, an estate requires formal probate if the estate includes real property and/or the value of the estate exceeds $75,000. There are, of course, exceptions to that general rule. It is always wise to determine if the estate qualifies for a small estate alternative to formal probate though.
- Initiate probate process. A petition must be filed with the appropriate court (usually in the county where the decedent was a resident at the time of death) to initiate probate. The petition is typically filed by the Executor named in the Will or by an adult family member if the decedent died intestate (without a Will or trust).
- Notify beneficiaries and creditors. Beneficiaries are people named by the decedent in a Will or trust while heirs are the people who would inherit by law using the Minnesota intestate succession laws. Both beneficiaries and heirs need to be notified that probate is underway as do creditors. Along with personally notifying known creditors, a general notice to creditors must be published in a local newspaper.
- Pay claims. The Executor or Personal Representative (in an intestate estate) must review all claims submitted by creditors and approve or deny each claim. If a claim is approved, it must be paid according to the schedule of priority. Gift and estate taxes must be calculated and paid as well.
- Wrap up probate. The court may require a final inventory before probate can be concluded. Remaining assets need to be distributed to the named beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate.
Do You Need Help Navigating the Probate Process in Minnesota?
Please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you need advice or guidance relating to the probate process in Minnesota, contact the Minnesota probate attorneys at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.
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