When most Minnesota residents die, their loved ones will have to open a probate proceeding, if for no another reason than to sell a person's home or handle a few pieces of personal property. However, in some cases, a probate proceeding is not necessary, and family members and friends can simply divide up property among themselves.
Whenever a person owns real estate in his or her name, even if it has little or no value, a probate proceeding must be opened. The only possible exception to this rule is when a person owns property as a "joint tenant." In most cases, a joint tenant simply passes his or her share of the real estate on to the other owners with very little complexities.
If a person owns no real estate when he or she dies, then a family need not put the estate through the court-sponsored probate process so long as the person does not own more than $50,000 in his or her own name. As with the real estate, items like retirement plans or insurance policies do not count as part of this $50,000 so long as the person who died named a specific beneficiary.
Just because an estate is small and may not require probate does not mean that will contests or another type of court battle will ensue. Angry heirs and other interested parties can always stir up legal trouble, even in a small estate. When this happens, it may be necessary to get the advice of an experienced Minnesota probate litigation attorney.