As this blog has talked about previously, a personal representative in a Minnesota estate case has a lot of power. Basically, he or she calls the shots about how estate property is managed and can greatly affect whether other family members and friends receive all of their inheritances.
As the recent death of Prince, the famous rocker who lived near Saint Paul, Minnesota, illustrates, confusion about who the personal representative should be can be a source of conflict and even probate litigation.
Most of the time, a court will simply appoint the personal representative whom the deceased nominated in his or her will. Of course, there can be situations in which a person did not leave a will or in which the nominated personal representative is unable or unwilling to serve. In that case, Minnesota law gives priority to certain people. Aside from someone named in a will, a person's surviving spouse has the highest priority.
In theory, however, a court can appoint any qualified person to be the personal representative of an estate if no one with legal priority is available to take on the job. A court is allowed to disqualify a person by deeming them "unsuitable" for the task after a formal hearing on the matter. In this respect, one way probate litigation begins is when a family member or a disgruntled creditor or heir asks a court o disqualify a personal representative as unsuitable.
Naming a personal representative can be a contentious issue since a personal representative wields so much power over the estate of a deceased person. When such contentions arise, it may be advisable for a Minnesota resident to seek the services of a qualified probate litigation attorney.