What’s The Minnesota Probate Process All About?

by Flanders Law Firm LLC on April 2, 2013

Minnesota Probate ProcessMany people are confused about the Minnesota probate process and are often intimated before taking the time to fully understand how probate proceedings works.

First of all, probate is the name for the legal process whereby an estate disposes of its assets. What does that mean exactly?  Well, probate is a term that can be used in several ways.

Probate can refer to the act of presenting a will to a court officer for filing, known as “probating” a will.  In a more general sense, probate refers to the way that the court system administers your estate after you die. This includes paying creditors, paying taxes, and distributing money to heirs.  Handling all these tasks can be a long and expensive process, but with the help of an experienced Minnesota probate attorney the process can be simplified enormously.

What assets must be probated in Minnesota?

The first question that many people want answered is what property must go through the process of probate in Minnesota.  Some might be surprised to know that not all property has to go through the process and, shockingly enough, the distinction is fairly easy to understand.

Put most simply, the assets that are allowed to bypass the probate process are those that can pass to another person without the help of a court.  This includes things that other people share title to or that automatically pass to beneficiaries. Some examples of nonprobated assets include things like life insurance and retirement plans that have beneficiary designations.  Another example is property that is titled in joint tenancy or property that is designated to automatically pass upon the owner’s death. Finally, assets held within a trust are another common way to bypass the probate process. All of these items do not require the help of a court to transfer title to other individuals and that is what makes them nonprobate assets.

Probate assets, on the other hand, include those things that do not transfer without the help of a court. These items include property that is only in the decedent’s name, property that is held as a tenancy in common, personal items and items that list the decedent or the estate as the beneficiary.

Pros and cons of Minnesota probate

Though many view the probate process as an unmitigated evil, the fact is there are plenty of good things about the process. First of all, probate is good because it includes a series of enforceable rules that ensure your assets go where they are supposed to go. This is especially nice in blended families where there can be mistrust or a lack of communication among heirs. In a probate proceeding, written notice is required to be given to all heirs and beneficiaries of the estate. This means that everyone will be kept abreast of any development regarding the disposition of the estate’s assets. Everyone knows what everyone else knows and has the chance to object to anything they disagree with, giving a judge the chance to decide any controversial matters.

Another advantages of the probate process is the short window of time given to creditors to make claims on the estate. Creditors have less time to make claims in those cases that move through the probate process which means that the estate can actually be settled more quickly then if there is no probate.

The primary disadvantage of the probate process is that it can be more expensive than passing assets without the help of a court. There are court costs that must be paid by the estate, attorney’s fees and notices that have to be mailed out to heirs and other interested parties. Though this can seem daunting, there are exceptions in the case of small estates that allow for a more informal process which is easier on the wallet.

While it’s true that probate can be pricier and often longer than a nonprobate process, that’s only true in cases that go smoothly. Probate can actually be less expensive and time consuming in cases where beneficiaries or creditors decide to sue over a disputed will. Lengthy court battles can waste enormous amounts of time and vast sums of money and make probate seem simple by comparison.

Though it may be intimidating at first, the probate process does not have to be a scary one. An experienced Minnesota estate-planning lawyer can help walk you through the probate process, answering questions along the way.

For more information on estate planning in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Joseph M. Flanders of Flanders Law Firm at 612-424-0398.

Source:Probate and Planning,” published at AG.State.MN.US.

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