A lot of people are terrified by the thought of getting involved in Probate. Probate is the court system that helps people administer assets after someone has died. While not horrific in Minnesota, it’s inconvenient and expensive, and for that reason, many people take the wise steps of trying to avoid it. There are a number of great ways to avoid probate in Minnesota.
Firstly, you can do all sorts of things with life insurance, annuities, and beneficiary designations on accounts. That’s the simplest and easiest way to avoid probate and it works for a lot of people, so long as you don’t have many beneficiaries or heirs taking things from your estate.
The most popular way to avoid probate in the state of Minnesota is to employ trust-based planning and use deeds for real property. Trusts can keep your property and assets out of the probate estate by retitling them to the name of the trust or making them pay on death to the trust. That way, when you pass away, your ownership interest is extinguished and the trust’s ownership interest lives on, meaning there’s no need for probate.
What Do I Need To Do If An Estate Does End Up Going Through Probate In Minnesota?
If an estate goes through probate in Minnesota, the first thing you have to do is to file an action with the Probate Court. Most people hire an attorney to help with this process, since many people feel too overwhelmed after the death of a loved one to handle it on their own.
Once you file your initial action, the court will eventually allow you to distribute the estate. There are several associated fees that come with filing the action. Some of the fees go to the Probate Court, and some of the fees get paid to a legal newspaper to publish an announcement that a probate has started. There are also fees paid to any attorneys involved.
One must also decide who should actually be in charge of administering the estate, and whether there is any reason to deviate from what the law and the rules say about how the estate should get passed on to the family. If there’s a will or other appropriate estate planning documents, the family and the court will follow those documents like a roadmap and resolve the estate that way. If there are no such documents, then the loved ones left behind are pretty much stuck with what the legislature has decided—that is, what the statutes say—about how to administer the estate and who gets to do so.
What Are The Most Common Reasons That Probate Disputes Arise?
One of the most common reasons for probate disputes to arise is when beneficiaries have a certain expectation of how an estate should be administered. This usually has to do with who should inherit certain assets or family members and friends asserting beliefs about what the person who died said they wanted or what they would have wanted.
The most common example of this is when a person dies and leaves behind different type of heirs or descendants—this could be a spouse, a few children, some grandchildren, and perhaps some stepchildren or adopted children. Sometimes individuals have certain expectations about what the deceased person would want. These expectations could pertain to who should inherit what or who should be in charge of the execution of the estate. When people have these strong beliefs about what the decedent actually wanted but no valid documentation exists to confirm the belief, there tend to be conflicts.
In general, everyone tends to have a somewhat different perception of what they think their parent, grandparent or other special individual in their life wanted. Personally, I have four kids, and even at a young age I see that all four of them see me vastly differently. More specifically, all four of my children see my perspective or consider my actions very differently in their own eyes. This is commonly true of siblings. When there is a will or some other form of sufficient estate planning, we simply follow those documents and there isn’t as much room for argument. However, in lieu of estate planning documents, the children or family members or beneficiaries are left to fill in the gaps. In my experience, this does not tend to go well.
Another common cause of fighting over probate is when parents don’t believe their children will fight about anything specific and simply divide their estate evenly between them without further specification. In some cases, this works fine. However, sometimes the children do wind up fighting over specific pieces of property which seriously prolongs the administration process.
For instance, let’s say there’s a beautiful piece of lake-front property and all of the children want it, but since the estate was simply divided between them evenly, none of them were left the property explicitly. This often leads to fighting about how to divide something like a physical property between them. Do they all get an equal ownership interest in the property and then rotate who uses it when? Does one sibling get the property and then the other siblings get other assets, like money or the rest of the property in the estate? To avoid this, the best thing you can do is to be really, really specific about who gets what and who’s in-charge of what in your estate planning documents.
The last thing that tends to cause fighting over the probate process is the question of who will take care of any surviving minor, or disabled or dependent adult children. We see many probate disputes arise around questions of child guardianship.
The fact is, many people think that they have a different relationship with their nieces and nephews or grandchildren than they really do. This leads them to bristle when someone else is assigned guardianship over the children if their parent dies or becomes incapacitated. Worst yet, if a parent does not nominate a guardian there will undoubtedly be competing interests over who will actually wind up taking care of the children in the absence of their parents.
This lack of planning or informing others of your plan can lead to very messy situations after an already painful and potentially traumatic loss for the kids involved. For example, a maternal aunt who is there for every birthday might think she’s the appropriate choice. Paternal Uncle Joe in Utah might instead arguing about how the children should go live in Utah with him in his stable family structure and large, multiple level home. Another local sibling still who’s been missing in action for multiple years might decide that because he is in town, he is the natural choice.
The best way to avoid this sort of mess is, once again, to be as detailed as possible in all parts of your estate planning documents, including and even especially the parts that detail guardianship of your children.
For more information on Probate In Minnesota, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (952) 225-5902 today.
Call Now For A Case Evaluation