Does Your Case Require Probate Court?
In Minnesota, if the estate is one that involves real estate or if the assets are more than $50,000, then in most cases there must be a probate proceeding. This is true whether or not there is a Will.
Minnesota Probate Is Begun By Petition
The probate process is begun by a petition which can be filed by an heir or a person who is supposed to inherit under a Will or, in some cases, a creditor. The petition can be filed anytime five days after the death and up to three years later. The probate must be begun in the county in which the decedent had his or her residence. The petition identifies certain facts about the decedent, summarizes his or her assets, and nominates an executor or personal representative. These two terms mean the same thing.
Depending on the case, the probate may be what is called "informal" in front of the Probate Registrar of the County or what is called "formal" in front of a District Court Judge.
Written Notice Is Required
When a probate is begun, there must be written notice given to the heirs and creditors of the decedent. There must also be a published notice in a legal newspaper of the county where the probate proceeding was filed. Also there needs to be notice to the government public assistance agency in case the government has a claim for reimbursement. This is required even if the family is certain that the decedent never received public assistance.
There are 17 tasks that the executor needs to do, usually with the help of an attorney.
When the case comes before the probate court, the court reviews the contents of the petition. If there is a Will, the court decides whether it is valid. Next the court looks at the nominated executor to see if he or she is a suitable person to take on these duties.
Challenges To The Case
If an heir or creditor wishes to challenge the petition on any of these issues, the challenger is entitled to a trial and have the court decide how the estate will be handled.
If there is uncertainty or a challenge to the nominated executor's ability to handle the estate, the court may require that the executor obtain a bond to assure that he or she handles the estate properly. A bond is an insurance policy to guarantee that the creditors and heirs will not suffer financial loss because of an executor's possible neglect or wrongful acts in administering the estate.
The executor gathers the assets of the decedent and pays the valid debts of the decedent. The executor can begin selling or setting aside for later distribution the assets of the estate. The proceeds of the estate must be preserved in a separate estate account at a bank or other financial institution.
Within six months of the beginning of the probate, the executor must file an Inventory with the court. This is a listing of the assets that the decedent had at the time of his or her death.
The creditors of the decedent have four months to file a claim for the debt they claim they are owed by the decedent. If a creditor fails to file within that time, the estate may be free from the obligation to pay the debt.
If the executor questions any claimed debt, there are time limits in which the executor must file a denial of the claim. The claimant then can demand a hearing on the validity of the claim. The creditor and the executor can each present to the court their arguments about whether or not the claim should be honored and the judge decides.
Prepare The Final Account
When all of the assets have been collected and the time has passed for making claims, the executor needs to prepare the Final Account and proposed distribution of inheritances. It may be necessary to have court approval of that. In any case, it is often desirable to have all of the heirs and persons entitled to bequests to consent to the distribution proposed. If the probate is one that is called "supervised", it may be necessary to have the court approve the accounts and transfers of property.
With the help of experienced legal counsel, a probate proceeding can be reasonably fast, economical and worry free.
The contents of this video are for information only and is 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.