Individuals who are making a will and reside in or own property in Minnesota may wish to understand more about the probate process. After an individual’s death, it may be necessary to settle the estate in court, and this process known as probate. Some wills must be filed in probate court, and once the assets are distributed and debts are settled, probate ends.

Not all wills must go through probate. It depends on the individual’s assets. Joint tenancy property, joint bank accounts, life insurance proceeds and payable-on-death accounts do not require probate. Furthermore, if an individual does not own real estate solely in their name and has assets worth less than $50,000, it may be possible for the heirs to avoid probate.

For situations in which probate is necessary, the personal representative of the deceased individual must file a petition or application with the probate court within three years of the individual’s death. The filing must occur in the county where the individual lived.

Filing for probate may be done through a formal or informal process. The informal process has a number of steps, but it is legal for an individual to administer the estate without the supervision of the court. The formal probate process involves appearing before the court.

An individual who is planning an estate may wish to work with an attorney. That attorney may be able to help a client draft a will that distributes assets that are not automatically transferred upon death. In addition, an estate planning attorney may be able to help an executor take the will through the probate process after the benefactor has passed away.

Source: The Office of Attorney General Lori Swanson, “ Probate and Planning “, November 12, 2014