What’s the big deal about probate court in Minnesota anyway?
What exactly is “probate”?
First, let’s define probate. It’s another one of those annoying legal terms. Probate is the legal process where a judge determines how a deceased’s assets are distributed at their death. People often ask, “Well, doesn’t the judge just follow my will?” The answer is, “That depends”.
Probate is a court proceeding used to transfer the assets of a deceased. If a deceased does not have an Estate Plan in place that contains a trust, their assets will likely pass through probate. During the process, a judge will ultimately decide how the assets are distributed who will act as personal representative of your estate as well as appointed guardian for any children who are minors.
The personal representative is usually the party to hire a probate attorney to assist in the process. The personal representative must take on a tremendous amount of responsibility for the administration of the deceased estate. Essentially this person has the power and duty to take possession of and to manage, protect and preserve the assets of the decedent. Among those responsibilities are:
Collecting and protecting the assets
Keeping a strict accounting to present to the court
Distributing to beneficiaries
Upon commencement of a probate action, a probate attorney will likely require the personal representative to provide documentation of the decadent’s estate including:
Location of any safe deposit box
Identification and location of all heirs
Title papers for real estate
Any information about assets and their value
A list of creditors and the decedent’s debt
The last income tax return of the decedent
As you can see, this process can be grueling and extremely time consuming for the personal representative of the estate.
But you may be asking, “Isn’t it much cheaper to go through probate court in Minnesota than to create a trust?" The answer is yes and no. The cost of a trust at the planning stage is more expensive than crafting a will based Estate Plan. However, the cost of probate in the State of Minnesota is much higher than you'd ever expect.
Let's talk about some of these costs. Probate costs in the Minnesota Twin Citiest Area and surrounding areas include:
Court Filing Fees
As usual, the government wants it's cut. It is not unusual for a court filing fee which is required in order to get the probate action rolling, to exceed several hundred dollars. In Minnesota, the current cost for filing fees (although varies by county) exceeds $320.00 in Minneapolis, St. Paul and surrounding areas.
If there are motions filed by interested parties, additional filing fees will be required. Interested parties may include heirs at law, beneficiaries, creditors, or in the case of Prince’s estate: opportunists. Prince’s heirs will likely go broke responding to motions before they get rich from distributions of his estate.
Publication and Service Costs
In addition to filing fees, the estate is required to serve notice upon interested parties. Heirs, beneficiaries and creditors must receive notice of the personal representative’s intent to probate the estate. Although