Probate is the legal proceeding by which a decedent’s estate is collected, accounted for, administered, and distributed.
The length of a probate depends greatly on the size of the estate, the number of creditors, and the relationships among the Personal Representative, heirs, and beneficiaries. For an average-sized estate with few creditors and amicable parties, the entire process generally takes less than year. Estates with real property, such as a house, tend to take longer.
In an informal probate, the person appointed by the will must apply to the Court to be appointed as the “Personal Representative” of the estate, formerly called an “executor.” Once the application is reviewed and approved by the Court, the Court will issue “Letters Testamentary” a document that evidences the Personal Representative’s authority to act on behalf of the Estate. If there is no will, the court issues “Letters of General Administration” which empowers the Personal Representative to administer the estate.
Minnesota requires that a Personal Representative notify (by publication in a local newspaper or by mail) any possible and known creditors of the decedent, and to pay legitimate claims. During the creditors’ period, the Personal Representative will likely deal with valuing, consolidating, or liquidating the Estate’s assets. After the creditors’ period is over, the Personal Representative may make distributions to creditors, heirs, or beneficiaries. An estate can close once all of the assets are transferred out of the decedent’s name, all legitimate claims are satisfied, all beneficiary interests are satisfied, and applicable tax returns are filed and paid.
- A Personal Representative is a person or persons approved by the Court to administer the decedent’s estate per the terms of his or her will or as defined by statute if the decedent did not leave a will. The Court will issue Letters that empower the Personal Representative to administer the Estate, including the ability to open and maintain an Estate bank account, sell, transfer, or encumber real property, sell or transfer assets, consolidate bank accounts, and deal with creditors.
- A Personal Representative owes a fiduciary duty to the estate, and has specific duties, including the duty: (1) to deal with the interests of the creditors and beneficiaries impartially, (2) to administer the estate solely as the will dictates with regard to the interest of the creditors and beneficiaries (as opposed to the Personal Representative’s own interests), (3) to maintain the duty of undivided loyalty, and (4) to act reasonably and prudently.
- Other responsibilities of a Personal Representative include creating an estate inventory of all of the decedent’s assets (real and personal) that includes applicable titling and date-of-death values, managing the estate assets until the Court approves the closing of the estate, keeping accurate records of the Estate’s transactions, and making distributions to creditors, heirs, or beneficiaries.
- Whether or not the Personal Representative elects to take a fee for his or her services, the Personal Representative should keep track of the time he or she spends working on the administration of the Estate.
Trojack & Schniederjan Law Office, P.A. has probated hundreds of estate over more than 35 years. We have the experience and knowledge to probate an estate efficiently and in a cost effective manner.