What is Probate?
Probate is the formal legal process that gives recognition to a will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate and distribute assets to the intended beneficiaries. The laws of each state vary, so it is a good idea to consult an attorney to determine whether a probate proceeding is necessary, whether the fiduciary must be bonded (a requirement that is often waived in the will) and what reports must be prepared.
The basic job of administration and accounting for assets must be done whether the estate is handled by a Personal Representative in probate or whether probate is avoided because all assets were transferred to a living trust or a business entity during lifetime or jointly owned. Many states have simplified or streamlined their probate processes over the years. In planning your estate, more important than minimizing probate is minimizing the real issues that can make probate difficult, such as lawsuits by heirs.
Should You Avoid Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process of administering your estate and transferring your property at death pursuant to the terms of your will. Probate is rarely the calamity naysayers claim. In addition, many types of property routinely pass outside of the probate process, even without the cost of establishing a living trust. Such property includes life insurance or retirement plan proceeds, which can pass to a named beneficiary by designation rather than pursuant to your will, and real estate or bank or brokerage accounts held in joint names with right of survivorship.
Thomason, Swanson & Zahn is here to assist with your estate planning or to help you through the probate process. Call us today to speak with our expert legal team.
For information specific to Minnesota probate laws, there is helpful information available at the Minnesota Attorney General’s website at: https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Consumer/Handbooks/Probate/CH2.asp