What to Expect During the Probate Process

A probate attorney doing paper work during the probate process.

Losing a loved one can be emotionally overwhelming. In addition to going through the grieving process, you might also be concerned about what will happen during the probate process and the steps that need to be taken to ensure the decedent’s property is distributed. Probate is required in most situations, regardless of whether your loved one had a will or not.

If your loved one executed a valid will, the property and assets will be distributed in accordance with its instructions — in the event there was no will, Minnesota intestate law would determine how the property is distributed. The following is an overview of what to expect during the probate process.

The Probate Proceedings Begin

The probate process begins by filing a petition with the probate court in the county where the decedent lived at the time of their death. In Minnesota, probate proceedings may be formal or informal. A probate case can be initiated at any time within three years after the decedent passes away.

Informal probate is commenced by filing an application with the probate court. This process is commonly used when the assets are straightforward and there are no disputes. It uses a registrar rather than a judge who ensures the paperwork is complete and will approve the estate to proceed informally.

In contrast, the formal probate process may be used when heirs are not known, there are conflicts among the beneficiaries, or there might be issues with the administration. The formal probate process is commenced by filing a petition with the court. If the court finds the petition is complete, it will issue an order for probate and appoint a personal representative.

The Probate Court Appoints a Personal Representative

The personal representative is the individual who is appointed to administer the decedent’s estate. They have a number of responsibilities throughout the process, including opening the estate, collecting the assets, protecting the estate property, preparing an inventory, paying taxes, notifying creditors — and ultimately distributing the assets. If your loved one had a will, the court will typically appoint the individual named in the document. But if there was no will, or a personal representative wasn’t named in the will, the probate court will appoint a personal representative based on Minnesota law.

The Decedent’s Estate is Inventoried

The personal representative will be responsible for preparing an inventory of the decedent’s estate. This process includes identifying all assets owned by the decedent, gathering details about them, and compiling the inventory. A good starting point is going through the decedent’s estate planning documents — they should have listed the assets to include in the inventory, a list of financial accounts, and how they can be accessed. However, if the decedent did not have a will, additional steps may need to be taken to locate both tangible and intangible assets.

Creditors are Notified and Debts are Paid

Before an estate can be distributed to beneficiaries or heirs, the decedent’s debts must be paid. It is the personal representative’s responsibility to notify any known (and reasonably ascertainable creditors) about the decedent’s passing. A Notice to Creditors must be issued by publishing such notice once a week for two successive weeks in a legal newspaper in the county where the probate case was filed.

A Final Accounting is Filed and the Decedent’s Assets are Distributed

Once the decedent’s estate has been inventoried, assets have been valued, and debts have been paid, a final accounting must be prepared — and the property can then be distributed. It is the personal representative’s responsibility to ensure the assets go to the correct beneficiaries. If the administration of the estate is supervised by the probate court, the personal representative must obtain a court order to distribute assets. In an unsupervised administration, the assets can be distributed without one.

The Probate Case is Closed

After the property has been distributed, the personal representative is ready to complete the last step of the probate process and close the case. Sometimes, this can be as simple as filing a statement with the probate court. If all the necessary steps have been taken, the probate case can be closed. A supervised probate case requires court approval in order to be closed.

Contact an Experienced Minnesota Probate Attorney

If you are facing a probate matter, it’s essential to have a skillful attorney by your side who can guide you through the legal process. At Dave Burns Law Office, I provide dedicated counsel for probate and estate litigation. If you would like to discuss your probate matter, I welcome you to contact me at (612) 677-8351 or by emailing dave@daveburnslaw.com. I represent clients throughout the Twin Cities metro area and am available to meet with clients in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Categories: Probate

The Dave Burns Law Office hopes you find this article helpful. But please do not rely on it as legal advice. The law changes regularly and the outcome of any legal matter depends on its unique circumstances. View full disclaimer