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How does the value of a lawsuit affect probate issues?

The last several posts on this blog have discussed probate litigation issues that can arise when a creditor attempts to assert a claim against a Minnesota estate. Depending on the size of the estate, a creditor's claim can have a huge impact on how much of an inheritance that the deceased person's heirs ultimately receive, as creditors are generally first in line to get paid.

On the other side of the coin, estates often are opened because the testator suddenly and tragically died. If the death is because of someone else's negligence, the family likely has grounds to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit and recover money for the estate. Other people, when they die, may have strong legal claims that could increase the size of their estates.

Like creditor claims, these sorts of situations also raise questions of estate valuation. For example, the following questions may arise: If family members have cause to file a wrongful death lawsuit in the death of their loved one, does any resulting award belong to the deceased person's estate? If so, should creditors be able to collect some of that award from the estate?

The answers to these questions may vary from case to case. Minnesota state law does provide some protections for wrongful death and other lawsuits related to the estate of a recently deceased person. However, it is wise to ask an attorney experienced in estate administration and probate law about how the law may apply to the specific circumstances of your case.

Source: 2015 Minnesota Statutes, Section 524.3-803, "Limitations on Presentation of Claims," accessed Jan. 22, 2016

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