Estate Planning, Collaborative Family Law & Mediation

More On Probate

For the first part of this series, see: About Probate.

Who is the personal representative?

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 named a personal representative in the Will. If there is no Will or the decedent’s Will did not name a personal representative, the court will appoint a personal representative from those who are nominated to serve as a personal representative.

What does probating an estate involve?

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. .

Probate can be a formal or informal process. It can be supervised by the court or could proceed in an unsupervised process. Though there are legal exceptions, a probate matter must be filed within three years after the death of the decedent

How does the personal representative know which type of probate process is appropriate?

The personal representative considers, often with the advise of a lawyer, a number factors when deciding the type of probate procedure to use. Some of the factors considered are:

  • The size of the estate
  • The nature of the estate’s assets
  • The complexity of the issues that may be involved in settling the estate
  • Whether there may be disputes among the heirs, beneficiaries, or creditors
  • If there is real estate to be distributed
  • If there are any beneficiaries who are under 18 years old
  • Is the estate insolvent
  • Does the personal representative live out-of-state

How will the estate be distributed to the heirs?

If a valid Will exists, the personal representative should distribute estate property according to the terms of the Will. If there is no valid Will, then the property will be distributed according to specific Minnesota laws about inheritance.

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