The legal process of the transferring of property upon a person’s death is known as probate. Probate means “to prove” and it is the court-supervised process of authenticating (or proving) a last will and testament. It includes locating and determining the value of the decedent’s assets, paying his or her final bills and taxes, and distributing the remainder of the estate to rightful heirs or beneficiaries. If a person dies without a will, the probate court will appoint an administrator and decide who gets what.
The probate process generally includes:
- proving in court that a will is valid;
- identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s personal and real property;
- having all property appraised;
- settling debts;
- filing and paying taxes; and
- distributing remaining property as the will (or state law, if there is no will) directs.
Probate is necessary in Minnesota when the estate includes real property, and/or probate assets valued at $75,000 or more. Probate can be a costly and timely process, and is oftentimes much more complex than the steps explained above. Costs of probate include filing and administration fees charged by the court, and many times the fees of an administrator or attorney. The probate process can be very lengthy, requiring heirs to wait up to a year, or more, to receive an inheritance.
It is possible to avoid probate, with careful and proper planning. Establishing a trust is oftentimes an ideal planning tool for avoiding probate. Generally speaking, only assets that are owned by the decedent individually are subject to the probate process. Assets owned jointly usually pass to the joint owner(s). Assets that name a beneficiary, such as life insurance, transfer on death (TOD) accounts, annuities, or IRAs, are also not typically subject to probate. It may be possible to avoid probate with strategic planning as to how certain assets are transferred and titled.
Many of my clients tell me they want the settlement of their estate to be easy for their heirs – this can be achieved a number of ways, as long as it is done correctly. Schromen Law, LLC can answer your questions and provide legal advice to make sure your estate can be settled quickly, and in accordance with your wishes.
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.