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Understanding the basics of probate

For many residents in Minnesota, they have or will deal with the unfortunate death of a loved one. While this is not always expected, family members will have to face many realities, following the passing of a loved one. One major process that family members must go through is properly sorting through the deceased's belongings and property. In many cases, family member will have to go through a legal process to formally transfer property to others. This process is known as probate.

In simple terms, the purpose of probate has remained relatively the same over the years, despite the various changes to probate customs and laws. Individuals formalize his or her intentions for the transfer of his or her property at the time of death, which is typically memorialized in a will. The deceased's property is collected at their death, certain debts are paid from the estate and the property is distributed per the intentions of the written order.

In order for the probate process to initiate today, it must be court supervised. Additionally, property that is subject to probate administration are those that do not pass to others by designation or ownership.

Many seek to avoid the probate process, and if that is the objective, there are three primary ways to do so. This includes joint ownership with the right of survivorship, gifts and a revocable trust. It should be noted, however, that the probate system does exist for the protection of the parties involved.

The major steps of the probate process includes: collecting all probate property of the decedent, paying all debts, claims and taxes owed by the decedent's estate, collecting all rights to income, dividends and other similar funds, settling any disputes and distributing or transferring the remaining property to the heirs. It should also be noted that the probate process carries with some costs that are usually paid out of the estate assets. These include fees of the personal representative, attorney's fees and court costs.

The above information just touches the surface of the basics of the probate process. It can become a complex process and those involved could initiate several disputes from the issues arising. Because probate litigation can be lengthy and complex, those involved should be fully aware of the process, as well as their rights and options available.

Source: Estate.FindLaw.com, "The Probate Basics," accessed on Aug. 5, 2016

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Mason & Helmers
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