What You Need to Know About Probate Estate Administration in Minnesota

by Hannah El-Bashir on Jun. 24, 2020

Civil & Human Rights Elder Law   General Practice Estate  Wills & Probate 

Summary: This article summarizes the basics of probate law in Minnesota and gives helpful tips for those with questions regarding the probate process.

What is probate?

When a person dies, he or she often leaves assets and debts, “the estate”, behind. Probate is a process whereby assets are divided and distributed, and debts are paid through the court system. Probate is not necessary in all cases. A person’s estate will only need to be probated if that person’s assets were worth over $75,000.00 at their death or if she was the sole owner of real property at the time of death.

Where do I start if I need legal help related to a probate matter?

Probate law in Minnesota is specific to Minnesota, and is not federal law. So, if you are seeking to retain an attorney to assist with a probate matter, you should seek out an attorney who is licensed to practice in the proper jurisdiction; in most cases this will be the state in which the person who passed away resided. The statutory authority for probate administration in Minnesota is found predominantly in Minnesota Statutes Chapter 524, Uniform Probate Code, and Chapter 525, Probate Proceedings.

There are different types of probate processes: formal and informal. It is also possible that, as mentioned above, the estate in question may be small enough to avoid probate entirely. In those instances, an Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property form can be filed with the court, allowing heirs to collect property of the person who passed away. It is best to consult with an attorney to determine which process is appropriate in your unique situation. At El-Bashir Law we offer free consultations and modest initial retainers for clients who would like us to provide assistance or advice with a probate matter.

A good starting point for a person who is not able to retain an attorney, or is curious about the law is the Minnesota Judicial Branch Website. Follow this link to go to the website where you can assess forms and instructions: http://www.mncourts.gov/Help-Topics/Probate-Wills-and-Estates.aspx

Another helpful resource is lawhelpmn.org, a free online resource in Minnesota which is administered by Legal Services State Support of Minnesota. Follow this link to gain access: https://www.lawhelpmn.org/self-help-library/fact-sheet/questions-about-probate

Implications for estate planning: How can I prepare my estate so it is easy to administer after my death? And, can I avoid probate?

Avoiding probate is desirable in some circumstances because it means that your heirs don’t have to go to court. A good example of this was a case we recently had in which we represented the heirs of a man who had passed away. This man had a very modest estate but he also owned real property. Because he owned that real property by himself, the heirs had to wait for the estate to go through probate. There are a number of estate planning tools which could have been employed before he passed away to avoid probate. For example, property can be owned jointly with another person; this is called joint tenancy, and it is a way to avoid probate and easily transfer real property. Other common estate planning mechanisms include certain trusts, gifts made before death, and life insurance.

Where do I start my own estate planning efforts and what should my goals be?

Probate is a process which individuals deal with on behalf of the person who passed, and is not something you will need to worry about if your focus is your own estate. A starting point for all estate planning is a consultation with an attorney who can assist you in determining which estate planning tools to use. It is always better to do some estate planning, even if your estate is small. It can be helpful, meaningful, and even fun for you to know where your material possessions will be passed on to after you pass. Additionally, it is equally important to have a plan for end of life health care and burial. There are various tools, including power of attorney, health care directives, and wills, which can accomplish these important planning goals.

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