What Is Probate and Estate Administration?

probate estate administration

Minnesota Probate & Estate Administration Lawyer

Losing a loved one is a situation we know we must one day experience. Not only do we deal with the loss and emotional toll, but also with the many important steps involved in allowing the deceased to rest. Family and friends of deceased loved ones often wish to do their best to carry out final wishes, and to do so involves probate and estate administration.

But despite wanting the best for our loved one’s requests after they die, many Minnesotans are not well-versed in the probate and estate administration processes. What are these important legal processes, and what is required to properly ensure the estate is administered to the request of the deceased? Our experienced legal team will explain the probate and estate administration process, and how to proceed.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process used to settle the estate of a deceased person, legally referred to as the “decedent”. It begins with a court-appointed personal representative to administer the decedent’s estate, who may be named in the decedent’s will or by statutory priority if no will was prepared. While the personal representative has authority over the estate and how it is distributed, he or she is legally required to administer the estate as instructed in an existing will or otherwise as stated by law.

The personal representative also has the option to hire an attorney, at the expense of the decedent’s estate, to ensure the estate is properly administered. The support of an experienced attorney not only simplifies the process, but provides invaluable assistance should any issues arise during probate or estate administration.

Probate and the Estate Administration Process

Once a personal representative is appointed, he or she is responsible for locating and distributing the decedent’s estate. This is known as estate administration. As stated previously, a will generally determines the recipients of any estate left by the decedent. But sometimes the decedent is “intestate”, which means a will was not prepared. Thankfully, there are state laws that determine the distribution of estate in intestacy to ensure the estate is administered fairly.

So what constitutes a decedent’s estate? Minnesota law defines estate as a deceased person’s real and personal property at the time of their death. This may include:

  • Real estate
  • Bank and investment accounts
  • Business assets and interests
  • Deed contracts
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Promissory notes
  • Vehicles, including marine and aerial
  • Life insurance
  • Retirement assets

The above list is not conclusive, and it is the duty of the personal representative to ensure all valid estate assets are accounted for. Due to the amount of assets and property that may be considered estate, the aid of an attorney can make the tracking and distribution of the estate an easier process.

Is Probate Necessary?

A common question asked is if the probate process and estate administration is necessary when distribution of the estate is clearly defined in a valid will. Some property, such as life insurance policies with beneficiary designations and jointly held financial accounts, can be transferred outside of probate. However, property of $75,000 or more held in the decedent’s name must go through the probate process, including real estate—unless a “transfer on death” deed exists. But this does not always mean a long and complicated process is ahead, as explained below.

The Difference Between Formal and Informal Probate

In Minnesota, there are two types of probate: formal and informal. For both processes, there is still an appointed personal representative to distribute the estate. The difference is formal probate is usually chosen when there are issues with the estate a judge may need to resolve. This may include disagreements between parties, minor heirs, ambiguous provisions on a will, questions of will validity, etc. For this reason, formal probate is often longer and costlier than informal probate.

Luckily, most Minnesotans are able to proceed with informal probate. The personal representative of the estate in informal probate acts independently and with minor court oversight. When there are no foreseen complications of a decedent’s estate administration, informal probate is ideal—and generally less time consuming.

For a Probate Attorney That Cares, Call Hero, Jorstad & Jacobsen Law Firm, P.A.

We know the pain of losing a loved one is difficult, and that your time should be spent celebrating their life and sharing memories. Leave the paperwork to the professionals here at Hero, Jorstad & Jacobsen Law Firm, P.A.

Contact us today to learn more about how our experienced attorneys can guide you through the probate and estate administration process. Providing quality legal probate and estate assistance to fellow Minnesotans in the following locations: Northfield, Kenyon and Wanamingo.

(Sources: How the probate process works, Minnesota Department of Human Services

Probate, Wills, & Estates, Minnesota Judicial Branch)