When a loved one passes away, I will represent the personal representative (Executor/Executrix) through the Minnesota probate and trust administration process with the utmost compassion and understanding.
WHAT IS PROBATE?
Probate is the legal court process for paying a person’s debts and expenses and distributing a person’s property after that person’s death. In a probate matter, the person who has died is called the “decedent,” and his or her property is called the “ probate estate.” However, the definition of “probate estate” is generally a subset of the decedent’s entire estate. A decedent’s debts are paid from the probate estate and any property remaining is divided among heirs or beneficiaries, according to a Will or according to state law.
WHEN IS PROBATE NECESSARY?
Minnesota probate law applies to people who lived in Minnesota when they died and to residents of other states who owned real estate in Minnesota. Whether a matter is “probated” depends on a number of factors, including the type of property and the nature of the ownership of that property. For example, unless real estate (a home, a cabin, a farm, etc.) was transferred into a trust or was owned as “joint tenancy” with a right of survivorship, this property is subject to the probate process. If you are considering a Will, you should consult with an attorney about the ownership of any real estate and whether there are advantages to certain types of ownership.
If you do not own real estate, a decedent’s estate must be probated if the personal property is valued at more than $75,000. If the decedent’s probate estate is worth less than $75,000, the decedent’s legal heirs may be able to collect the property by affidavit, which does not require court involvement. Collection by affidavit allows for a small estate to keep estate administration costs low.
WHAT PROPERTY DOES NOT NEED TO BE PROBATED?
Non-probate assets include property owned as joint tenants, jointly held bank accounts, transfer or payable-on-death bank accounts or real property, life insurance proceeds with beneficiary designations, and pension benefits with beneficiary designations. The law also provides for transferring a car without involving probate.
Transferring joint assets does not necessarily occur automatically upon a person’s death. For example, to transfer real estate to the surviving owner, an affidavit of survivorship must be filed with the county recorder where the property is located. Other jointly held assets require filing specific forms and usually require a certified copy of the death certificate. Consult your attorney about how best to handle transfer of property at death.
WHAT DOES PROBATING AN ESTATE INVOLVE?
A personal representative is an individual or entity who is responsible for administering or “probating” the decedent’s estate. Usually, if a person dies with a Will, the decedent has nominated a personal representative in the Will. If there is no Will, or if the decedent’s Will did not nominate a personal representative, the court will appoint a personal representative from those who are nominated by the heirs to serve as a personal representative.
A person—usually the person who will be the personal representative-—initiates the probate process by filing legal documents with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of death. Once appointed by the court, a personal representative must take an inventory of all of the property owned by the estate and report that inventory to the court and to potential heirs or beneficiaries. Probate ends when all debts and taxes are paid and all assets are distributed to the people or organizations entitled to the assets.
Ward Law serves families and businesses in Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Dakota County and the entire Twin Cities Metro Area. To begin the probate process, select the following link, answer some questions, then Submit the form: