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Distributing Assets in Minnesota Probate: Who Gets What and When?

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When Should You Contact a Minnesota Probate Attorney?

Probate is the legal process that settles someone’s estate after that person has passed away. Upon someone’s death, the representative of that person’s estate should contact a Minneapolis probate attorney for advice and assistance with the administration and closure of the estate.

Everyone knows that losing a loved one is one of life’s most difficult experiences. Managing the distribution of your loved one’s assets can add even more anxiety to what is already an emotionally-fraught situation.

If you are named – either in the will or by the court – as the personal representative of someone’s estate, contact a Minneapolis probate lawyer as quickly as possible. That lawyer will provide you with personalized probate advice and guide you step-by-step through the probate process.

How Does the Probate Process Begin and End?

Upon your death, your personal representative is obligated to probate your will. Your property and assets are inventoried, your debts are paid, and whatever remains is divided and distributed to your heirs. If you didn’t name a personal representative in your will, the court will name one.

Probate in Minnesota is either “formal” or “informal.” In an informal probate process, the personal representative may administer an estate with the court’s involvement but without supervision. Formal probate requires a judge’s supervision because it usually involves large, contested or complicated estates.

The probate process begins when your personal representative submits your will to the probate court. In most cases, a probate proceeding in Minnesota must begin within three years of the decedent’s death.

If a dispute arises regarding a will, the probate court will resolve the dispute. If you challenge a will in Minnesota, you are going to need the advice and services of a Minneapolis probate attorney.

Which Estates Must Pay Estate Taxes?

Before any assets or properties are transferred to someone’s heirs, an estate’s outstanding taxes and debts must be paid. The personal representative of the estate must file any missing tax returns and pay any outstanding tax debts with assets from the estate.

However, only the wealthiest Minnesota estates are required to pay federal estate taxes. As of 2024, the threshold for the federal estate tax is $13,610,000 per person and $27,220,000 for married couples. The top marginal rate is 40 percent.

However, as of 2024, the threshold for the estate tax in Minnesota is $3 million per person and $6 million for married couples. Estate tax rates range between 13 percent and 16 percent (as of 2024).

Unmarried individuals with estates greater than $3 million and married couples with estates greater than $6 million should consult a Minneapolis estate planning attorney for advice about protecting their assets from the probate process.

How Are Debts Paid?

When someone’s estate is probated in Minnesota, the estate’s personal representative must publish a notice of death in a newspaper/online publication in the county where the decedent resided. The publication of a probate notice is required in order to inform the decedent’s creditors of the death.

The notice of probate must be published for two successive weeks. Creditors have four months from the initial publication of the probate notice, to file a claim.

Within three months of the first publication of the probate notice, the personal representative must also provide a copy of the notice to any known creditors or to any creditors who would be identified by a reasonably careful search.

Bills may arrive after a decedent’s death, so it may take several months before the personal representative knows all of the estate’s debts. A representative may also obtain the decedent’s credit report and open mail, which may reveal debts the representative otherwise would not know about.

When Are Inheritances Distributed?

After an estate’s taxes and debts are paid, the personal representative has the responsibility to distribute the estate’s remaining assets and properties to the rightful heirs. In many cases, the heirs are named in the will, and this simplifies the process.

If the decedent did not leave a will, the estate’s assets and properties must be distributed according to Minnesota state law. Personal representatives should contact a Minneapolis probate lawyer to make sure that the estate’s properties and assets are properly divided and distributed.

A probate lawyer will also help a personal representative take the appropriate legal steps when a designated heir has died prior to the decedent’s death or when a designated heir cannot be located.

Can Probate Be Avoided?

Probate proceedings are lengthy, expensive, and confusing, but you can take several steps right now to help your loved ones avoid the probate process. Minnesotans can prepare a living trust and move their assets into that trust, which protects the assets from probate.

If you jointly own property with one or more other persons, and your ownership includes the “right of survivorship,” the surviving owner or owners may inherit your portion of the property upon your death, and it’s possible that no probate will be required. However, every situation and family dynamic is different so transferring assets into a trust is always favorable when seeking certainty.

You can also add a payable-on-death designation to your bank accounts, and upon your death, your designated beneficiary may claim your money directly from the bank, without any legal requirement for probate.

Minnesota also allows you to register stocks and bonds in transfer-on-death form and allows you to leave real estate with beneficiary deeds (also called transfer-on-death deeds) that do not require probate.

Let Metropolitan Law Group Handle Your Probate and Estate Planning Needs

If you are navigating the probate court process in Minnesota, let the award-winning legal team at Metropolitan Law Group represent you and advocate on your behalf. Our team is led by estate and wealth planning attorney Lisa A. Haster, who has over fifteen years of probate and estate planning experience.

To obtain legal help as the personal representative of an estate, to prepare a will or a living trust, or if you simply need to learn more, call Metropolitan Law Group now at 612-448-9653. We will provide the advice you need, and if necessary, go to court on your behalf.

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