“Probate” may be an unwelcome term to those who have designed their estate plans specifically to avoid it. However, many people in Minnesota may have very limited experience with the probate process. Therefore, it is good to have a basic understanding of probate. This way, a person can design an estate plan that takes probate into account, and should one be chosen to administer a probated estate, they may be able to anticipate what duties this entails.

When a person passes away, with some exceptions, their estate will go through “probate.” Probate is simply the procedure undergone to determine whether the deceased’s will is legally valid. It also lays out the rules the executor of the estate should follow when winding up the deceased’s estate. If a person died without executing a will or trust, then an executor of the estate will be named through probate and the deceased’s assets will be distributed. In either case, the executor of an estate has numerous duties.

The executor is responsible for collecting all of the deceased’s property and assets. Once all the estate assets are located, the executor must assign a value to them. If there are debts to be paid out of the deceased’s estate, the executor will pay these debts. Taxes will also need to be paid. Finally, the executor distributes the remainder of the deceased’s estate per the terms of the deceased’s will or, if there is no will, through the laws of intestate succession.

This is only a very general overview of what probate does. Ultimately, while probate is necessary if a person leaves only a will or has no estate plan at all, many people wish to avoid having their estate go through probate. It takes time for the probate process to be properly completed, which could ultimately reduce the size of the deceased’s estate and, thus, how much the deceased’s heirs will inherit. Some estate planning vehicles, such as trusts and life insurance, bypass probate. It is still a good idea to have a basic understanding of the probate process, in case you are called upon to serve as the executor of a loved one’s estate.

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