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Probate - Estate Administration
When a person dies, a process to transfer their property called Estate Administration begins. Any property that is transferred through a Will needs to be cleared by a court process called probate before the people who are to receive the property are able to do so. In Minnesota we have adopted the Uniform Probate Code which lays out a complex system of laws that control this process. It is important to have an experienced lawyer help you out through this complicated process, as there are required court appearances and lots of legal documentation that needs to be filed.

The basic process goes as follows:The court will examine the Will to determine whether it is valid. If no Will exists then the Minnesota laws of intestate succession. The probate property needs to be collected and inventoried, and likely appraised. Any debts and taxes need to be paid from the assets available in the estate. After that, the property is distributed and the estate is closed.

You've likely heard the terms Executor or Administrator, which in Minnesota we call the Personal Representative. A well written Will will name a trusted person to fulfill this role, or a court will appoint someone to do this if none is appointed or there is no Will. This is the person that works with the attorney to settle the affairs of the estate and to distribute the property. This job often takes a lot of work.

The Personal Representative opens the estate by filing an application (for informal probate) or a petition (for formal probate) with the court. An informal probate doesn't involve hearings before a judge; instead each county has a registrar that works with the attorney to settle the estate. A formal probate does require a judge's participation, and after it has begun, it can either proceed unsupervised or supervised. When it is unsupervised, the Personal Representative can go through the process without having the court approve of the steps being taken, while a supervised process involves much more interaction with the court.