After we have received the documents from court appointing the personal representative appointed and commencing the probate, there are four basic steps of probate that we will assist you with. The difficulty of these steps vary greatly based upon the nature of the decedent’s property and the reasonableness of the people involved, but it usually takes between six to twelve months to complete.
"A typical probate takes between six to twelve months to complete."
The first step is collection, inventory and appraisal of all assets that are subject to probate are taken. The values taken at the appraisal are based on the value at the date of death. One of the first duties that we will assist the personal representative with is to take an inventory of estate assets. These assets include real estate, personal property, investment and bank accounts, vehicles as well as funds that are owed to the decedent or the estate, e.g. loans, final paycheck, life insurance, or retirement account made payable to the estate. We will assist you in preparing this inventory so that it can be filed with the court within thirty days of being appointed as personal representative.
An estate checking account is created for the decedent’s household final bills and estate expenses (e.g., attorney, appraiser). It is necessary to have the account set up so that check images are returned to the personal representative. This checking account is also useful for combining all the decedent’s financial accounts into a single pot.
Paying the bills – taxes, estate expenses, and creditors of the decedent is the next step. The personal representative is not personally responsible for paying these expenses out-of-pocket if estate funds are not available provided the personal representative administers the estate in accordance with Minnesota law. The order of payment of claims against the estate is as follows: a) secured creditors; b) costs/expenses of administration; c) funeral expenses; d) debts and taxes; e) all other claims and creditors.
We will assist the personal representative in reviewing the decedent’s final bills, debts and claims, to determine which bills are valid and then pay those and reject the rest.
We will assist you with the legal requirements pertaining to the allowance and disallowance of the claims. A creditor has four months from the time the notice of probate is published to submit a claim against the estate.
Formal transfer of estate property according to the will or by Minnesota laws on interstate succession (if there is no will).
When all rightful claims, debts and expenses have been paid, the remainder of the property is distributed by the executor as the will directs. At this point, if there is no will, the personal representative distributes property according to Minnesota interstate law. We will assist the personal representative to determine whether the personal representative should distribute the estate in cash or in kind (i.e., give away the property itself to the beneficiaries instead of liquidating the assets for cash).
Most wills allow the personal representative to sell or transfer real estate after a legally specified waiting period. The personal representative usually may sell or transfer the testator’s (decedent’s) personal property any time but may not begin final distribution of property or sale proceeds until after all expenses have been paid or pursuant to an order of court.
When the waiting periods have expired and all legitimate bills, debts, and taxes have been paid, what remains of the estate is available for distribution to heirs or beneficiaries. Only then will we assist the personal representative to make disbursements of cash, send copies of documents such as deeds and investment statements showing new ownership and transfer physical property to the respective beneficiaries.
The final step is to prepare and file the final probate documents closing the estate, including an accounting of all income, payments and distributions made collected or made by the personal representative. Depending upon whether an informal or formal probate had been commenced, once the judge approves the final settlement, the personal representative usually has no further duties and the estate is considered closed if it is a formal estate or administratively.