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Answers To Commonly Asked Questions About Estate Planning And Probate

Last updated on October 13, 2022

At Ed Shaw Law, we regularly receive questions from potential clients who need to create an estate plan, as well as families wanting to know more about the probate process. On this page, we’ve answered some of the most common questions we receive. After reading, we invite you to ask us your own questions during a free consultation.

Why is estate planning necessary, and what happens if I don’t have a will?

No matter how large or small your estate may be, you have worked hard to earn those assets. You should get to decide what happens to them when you are no longer around to enjoy them. This is largely accomplished by creating a will, which lists your intended heirs and the property left to each.

Dying without a will is known as dying “intestate.” Since you didn’t specify otherwise, your property will be distributed according to Minnesota’s intestate succession laws. The best way to ensure that you get to choose what happens to your assets is to create a clear, thorough and legally sound will.

Additionally, estate planning is about more than just what happens to your possessions. You can use estate planning documents to specify your wishes for end-of-life medical care, appoint a trusted person as your power of attorney if you ever become incapacitated, and even name guardians for your minor children if you were to pass away suddenly and unexpectedly.

What is probate, and what kind of work does it involve?

Probate is the legal process of “proving” a will (determining its validity) and managing the property of the estate based on whether the will is deemed valid. The work of overseeing the distribution of assets and other tasks is the responsibility of the personal representative (sometimes called the executor).

The personal representative has a long list of to-do items, including:

  • Making a public notification of probate so that estate creditors can pursue claims
  • Identifying and locating all named heirs and beneficiaries
  • Gathering and inventorying all estate assets
  • Settling estate debts, paying expenses and filing an estate tax return
  • Distributing assets to named heirs in accordance with the will

This would be a big responsibility even under ideal circumstances. But it can be especially overwhelming while trying to mourn the death of a loved one. Thankfully, you don’t need to do it alone. Our attorneys can handle most of the work for you, leaving you free to focus on taking care of yourself and your family.

Is probate required in Minnesota? Can it be avoided?

There are two types of probate in Minnesota: informal (which requires little court supervision) and formal (which requires more court supervision). Most estates in Minnesota will need to go through one of those processes.

Informal probate is appropriate in cases where there are essentially no disputes about the will or disputes between heirs, no real estate owned solely by the decedent and no other complicating factors. If there are provisions that need to be clarified, disputes that arise or other complications, formal probate may be necessary.

Probate can be avoided (at least in large part) through careful estate planning. Anything jointly owned (like a marital residence) will be transferred to the surviving owner. You can also use transfer-on-death or payable-on-death designations to pass along real estate, vehicles, bank accounts and more.

How will I know which estate planning tools and documents I need?

The best and easiest way to learn about the right estate plan for you is to discuss your options with us during a free consultation. You just talk to us about your needs and goals, and we can help you identify and create the documents/instruments to meet them. Creating a high-quality estate plan is often faster, easier and less expensive than many people assume.

Have Additional Questions? Contact Us For Knowledgeable Answers And Guidance.

With offices in Brainerd and St. Cloud, Ed Shaw Law serves clients throughout the surrounding areas. For answers and information about Minnesota estate planning and probate, call us at 800-507-0352 or fill out our online contact form.