How Does Probate Work in Minnesota?

April 22, 2013  |  William F. Huefner

Probate in Minnesota may seem a little mysterious, but it’s actually relatively straightforward. Here’s what you need to know.
First, probate is just the process of settling the estate when you die. Popular fiction and television have often characterized it as a court’s attempt to make sure the state keeps as much of your property as possible, but that’s not actually what happens.
In fact, probate can be as simple or as complicated as your documentation and your heirs make it.
The first step is to determine what does and does not need to go through probate. Property that you already own with another person doesn’t go through probate, for example.
If you and your spouse have a joint bank account and both of your names are on that bank account then the account probably won’t go through probate. Ownership of it and everything in it will simply pass to your spouse. Homes and businesses may transfer in the same way. However, an attorney may still need to oversee a title transfer that does need to be handled correctly.
Property with living named beneficiaries also doesn’t go through probate. Retirement plans, annuities, and life insurance policies usually all have named beneficiaries who would simply receive the property.
Estates worth $50,000 or less also do not go through the probate process.
So what does go through probate? Property that was only in the deceased’s name, assets who named “the estate” as the beneficiary, personal property with no title and assets who have named a deceased beneficiary will all need to go through the probate process.
Probate begins with an application or petition to probate. At this point, there will either be an informal process or a formal process.
If you had a clear will written by an attorney and nobody in your family is contesting that will then the process can generally be informal. This means that the court will let your personal representative distribute the property and pay the debts without court oversight.
Things get sticky when there are problems with the will or when the relatives start challenging it. This scenario requires a formal probate hearing. These hearings could indeed drag on for years at a time if families continue to fight over the estate.
If you want the probate process to be as simple as possible for your family then the best thing you can do is consult an estate attorney who is experienced in the estate planning process. If you are here in the Minneapolis area, please consider us! We have over 35 years of experience and we have handled estates of all shapes and sizes. Call us today.