Insights to Informal Probates
When a loved one has died, the grief process begins. One of the many details to be considered during the grief process includes whether an estate administration, or probate, will be needed for the Decedent. A probate is necessary when a Decedent owns property in his or her own name alone, such as real estate, and if the value of the probate property is over $75,000. Under Minnesota law, if the probate property is valued under $75,000, an interested party may, after 30 days from the Decedent’s death, issue a small estate affidavit to collect the asset owned by the Decedent, without the need for a court probate proceeding. If probate property is located and worth more than $75,000, then someone must be appointed by the court to serve as the Personal Representative of the Decedent’s estate. In addition, an estate goes through probate whether a Decedent had a Will or not. Minnesota law has two types of probate administrations, informal and formal.
An informal administration is commonly utilized for small, simple estate matters, where the assets are straightforward and when everyone involved gets along.
Informal probates also have very little court involvement once a Personal Representative is appointed. It is key to review each Minnesota Judicial District to determine the qualifications needed for proceeding with an informal probate in the county where the Decedent died or legally resided; nevertheless, most probate proceedings in Minnesota are informal.
To initiate an informal probate with the court, the first steps are preparing the initial probate application and accompanying pleadings for filing with the Court. The information that is included in the Application for Informal Probate includes:
- Determining whether the Decedent executed a Will
- Information pertaining to the Decedent, including legal name, address, date of death (information generally included on the Death Certificate)
- Preparing a list of all interested parties, including heirs, devisees, and other interested persons, and providing the legal interest and address information
- Compiling and including a preliminary list of assets and their approximate valuations, including probate and non-probate, as well as the approximate indebtedness of the Decedent, which helps to determine if the Decedent’s estate is solvent or insolvent
- Confirming that three years have not passed since the Decedent’s date of death
- Confirming the appointment of a Personal Representative as named in the Decedent’s Will; or if there is no Will, then the priority for appointment as Personal Representative under the intestacy statutes must be reviewed
Once the informal probate pleadings are prepared and filed with the Court, then notice is provided to all interested parties and published in a legal newspaper. There is a four-month claims period wherein creditors must file a claim against an estate or forever be barred from doing so once the claim period expires.
Once a Personal Representative is appointed by the Court with issuance of Letters, their fiduciary duty and responsibility begins. As previously indicated, an informal probate is typically straightforward if all parties of interest get along, and the oversight from the Court is minimal. An informal probate is closed with the Court by filing Receipts for Assets and a Personal Representative’s Closing Statement. Most simple estates administered informally may be completed within six months; but remember, every estate is unique!