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Am I Running Out of Time in Probate?

Probate Can Seem Slow

Sometimes the procedures of probate seem to move slowly. Add to this the emotions of dealing with a Loved One's affairs and it can be difficult to stay on top of the tasks required to complete the affairs. This can make it easy to forget that there are time deadlines in probate. If you miss these, you may lose your rights in Probate.

Minnesota Statute Of Limitations

Under Minnesota Law, a statute of limitations is the legal deadline in which court action needs to be taken in order to assert the legal rights of a person. The laws affecting estates of deceased persons and their families have a large number of time deadlines that must be followed. You must use the proper procedure within those times or you could lose your rights.

The first deadline is that the probate must begin within three years of the death of the family member. It is possible to start legal proceedings to get distribution of the assets after three years, but the processes are more complicated. As you might expect when things get more complex, they also become more expensive.

Written Notice Is Required

When one of the heirs files with the probate court asking to be appointed as executor or personal representative, a written notice is sent to the other heirs. The people who receive that notice then have 30 days in which they can file an objection to the person being named as personal representative. It is possible to later ask the court to remove that person as personal representative but getting that done afterward is more difficult.

If you are the spouse of the deceased person and you do not like the provisions of the will, you must file your objection within nine months of the death or within six months of the filing of the probate.

If the deceased loved one has a claim or potential lawsuit against someone else, the time for a representative on behalf of the decedent to take action on the debt may be running out. There are provisions of law to suspend the running of certain statutes of limitations. However, it is better to be safe with timely action.

An Inventory Must Be Prepared

Once the probate process has begun, the executor or personal representative has six months in which to prepare and provide an Inventory (or list of all the decedent's assets) of the estate to the heirs and creditors.

When the personal representative asks the court to approve the estate accounting and/or distribution of inheritance, any beneficiary or creditor who does not agree with how these statements needs to file an objection with the court by the time of the hearing or they could lose their right to object. Objections commonly include disagreements with how the estate is being managed, how much is to be paid to beneficiaries, or relating to expenses.

If you have a debt owed to you by the decedent, you have four months in Minnesota after the probate proceeding is begun in which to file a claim. For example, if you had an agreement with the deceased loved one to provide care for that person for a certain amount per month and you have not been paid, you need to file a claim. If you do not file within the time allowed, you may lose your rights altogether. If the personal representative disputes your claim, he or she can disallow it by sending a written notice to the claimant two months after receiving the claim. The claimant has two months in which to file a challenge in court to the disallowance of his or her claim.

The Safe Thing Is To File On Time

The time limits I discuss in this video have a number of exceptions and possible extension to them. However, the safe thing, of course, is to always file within the time deadlines so you do not have to get an exception or extension.

As you can see, the Probate Code has many time deadlines in which rights must be asserted or those rights can be lost. If you have possible rights as a beneficiary or heir or creditor to an estate, you should consult with a probate attorney to be sure your rights are protected. Time may be running out before you know it.

The contents of this video are for information only and are not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning. The U.S. Treasury Department requires us to advise you that any written tax advice cannot be used and is not intended to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. Written advice from our firm relating to any Federal Tax matters may not, without our express written consent, be used in promoting, marketing or recommending any entity, investment plan or arrangement to any taxpayer. 

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