What Do You Need to Know About Probate in Minnesota?
The time following a loved one’s passing can be incredibly challenging. In addition to navigating the grieving process, family members will also need to go through the proper legal procedures to pay off the decedent’s bills and distribute their estate. This process of settling the estate and dividing assets is known as probate.
If you are unfamiliar with the law, probating an estate can seem daunting and confusing, particularly if the decedent has a complex financial situation. Many families wonder which assets are subject to probate and whether they need to complete the probate process at all. A knowledgeable and compassionate Minnesota probate lawyer from Metropolitan Law Group, PA can explain what you need to know about this often challenging legal process. We can assist you with all your probate needs and help you ensure that any necessary proceedings move as smoothly as possible, so your family can focus on what matters most.
Are Probate Proceedings Still Required if a Will Exists?
The presence of a will generally does not prevent an estate from going through probate. A will names the decedent’s personal representative, who will be responsible for initiating probate by filing an application with the court, but the approval to appoint that person is required by the judge.. The need for probate is determined by several factors, including:
- The value of the decedent’s property
- The types of property in the estate
- The ownership structure of the property, such as joint or sole ownership
Probate may not be required if the decedent created an estate plan that placed all their property into a trust. However, the personal representative should still consult a trusted probate attorney to ensure no property was left out of the trust. If any assets were unaccounted for in the plan, they need to be probated.
Which Assets Must Be Included in Probate?
During probate, the court will transfer ownership of the decedent’s assets to a new owner. If a will exists, it will likely guide the distribution of the assets. If the individual dies without a will, the court will follow Minnesota’s intestacy rules to determine who will receive assets from the estate. Two main categories of assets can be subject to probate in Minnesota: personal property and real estate.
Personal property includes all non-real estate items owned by the decedent, such as:
- Vehicles, boats, and RVs
- Valuables and jewelry
- Bank accounts
- Investment accounts
- Business interests
- Retirement plans
- Insurance policies payable to the estate
If the value of the decedent’s personal property exceeds $75,000, it is subject to Minnesota probate. In some cases, for estates worth less than this amount, the heirs can file an Affidavit for the Collection of Personal Property to transfer the items. However, some institutions have internal policies that still require probating even if under $75,000.
Any real estate owned solely in the decedent’s name must be probated, including:
- Hunting land
- Rental Properties
- Commercial properties and businesses
If the decedent was a Minnesota resident but owned property in another state, that property is subject to the probate laws of the state where it is located.
Which Assets Are Exempt From Probate in Minnesota?
Certain types of assets are not required to go through the probate process. These assets have other legal mechanisms in place for transferring ownership when the individual passes away. Creating an estate plan that includes assets that don’t need to be probed can be vital to ensuring your family’s financial stability. Assets in probate will be frozen until the court completes the process, which can be a year or longer, depending on the complexity of the estate. Assets exempt from probate can be transferred quickly, providing your family with the necessary funds for expenses until probate is finished.
Payable-on-Death (POD) Accounts
You can set up a payable-on-death (POD) account through your bank or financial institution. By filling out a form, you designate an individual who will receive the money in your account following your passing. The person you choose has no control over your funds until after your death, so you can keep using the account as usual. You can change the beneficiary designation anytime by filing a new form.
Joint Bank Accounts
You may add one or more people to your bank account as owners. In the event of your passing, the ownership will remain with the surviving account holders. Keep in mind that joint owners of your bank account will have access to it during your lifetime and funds could be susceptible to divorce, judgment paydown, lawsuits, or bankruptcy of either account holder.
Joint Tenancy Property
Joint tenancy allows multiple people to own a real estate property simultaneously. When one of these individuals dies, the remaining owner(s) will retain their right to the property. The title for the property will list any joint owners.
Following an owner’s passing, the surviving owner(s) must file an affidavit of survivorship with the county recorder, along with a copy of the individual’s death certificate, and in some cases, an entire probating of the decedent’s interest will be required.
Assets With a Named Beneficiary
Certain types of assets, including insurance policies and retirement accounts, allow the owner to designate a beneficiary who will receive the proceeds from the asset after their passing. It’s important to review these beneficiary designations periodically, particularly after a birth, marriage, or divorce, to ensure they are up-to-date with your wishes. Also, note that a minor cannot inherit under these policies without probate court involvement.
How Can an Experienced Probate Lawyer Assist You?
In many cases, at least part of an individual’s estate will be subject to probate. Figuring out which assets are required to go through probate and whether you should use formal or informal probate can be complicated and confusing. Minnesota law also requires the estate’s personal representative or an interested party to begin the probate process within three years of the decedent’s passing, so additional time pressure is involved.
Whether you have questions about probating the assets of a loved one or want to discuss strategies for avoiding probate or making the process simpler for your family, our seasoned attorneys in estate administration at Metropolitan Law Group, PA can help. Contact our law office at 612-448-9653 today to schedule a free strategy session.