Application for Probate required for the estate of a deceased person prior to the distribution of the assets according to the Will of the deceased according to law following deduction of any death duties.

When the estate of a deceased person (decedent) must go through the Minnesota probate process, family members naturally want to understand how long the process will take. Having to navigate probate is a reminder of your loss. Being able to put probate behind you doesn’t automatically resolve your grief, but it does allow you to begin moving forward with life after loss.

Unfortunately, the answer to the question “How long does the Minnesota probate process take?” varies widely. If you are looking for a short answer, we can tell you that probate in Minnesota often takes about a year. It can take less, and if the estate is large or complicated, it often takes more time.

If you are faced with administering the estate of a loved one, here are several factors that help determine the length of the probate process.

Factors Affecting the Length of Minnesota Probate

Size of the Probate Estate

As a general rule, large estates take longer to administer than smaller ones—though as you’ll see if you keep reading, there are many other factors that influence how long probate takes in Minnesota. In the case of a very small estate, probate may take as little as several weeks. Larger estates involving more assets tend to be more complicated. And if the estate is large enough to be subject to Minnesota or federal estate tax, you can expect the process to be on the longer side. An estate that is taxable under federal law cannot be closed without a letter to that effect from the IRS.

Number of Beneficiaries

The more beneficiaries there are in a probate estate, the longer the Minnesota probate process is likely to be. In part, that’s because signatures may be required from each beneficiary, and some people are more diligent than others about getting documents signed and returned. Multiple beneficiaries usually mean more paperwork and red tape, especially if some of them live out of state. In contrast, when the only beneficiary is a spouse, settling the estate could be as simple as transferring those assets to the surviving spouse if the estate is not a large one.

Location of Assets

Often, a person’s assets are located close to where they themselves lived: a house, bank accounts, a vehicle, personal property. But sometimes, a person dies owning property that is located outside the state, whether that is a vacation timeshare, a second home, or an investment property. When the decedent owned real estate outside Minnesota, that property needs to go through probate in the state where it is located, a process known as ancillary probate. That typically extends the length of time before the estate can be closed.

Complexity of Assets

Part of the probate process is identifying, gathering, and valuing probate assets. Sometimes that is a straightforward endeavor; for instance, the value of a bank account is obvious, and the value of an automobile or house is usually fairly easy to determine. Other assets, like an interest in a closely-held business or a unique piece of artwork, can be harder to ascertain. That can delay the resolution of a probate estate.

Conflicts Between Family Members

It won’t come as any surprise that when family members disagree about issues regarding the estate, it takes longer to administer and close the estate. Probate litigation not only takes time, but can consume estate assets. Disputes may center around dissatisfaction with the personal representative’s work, a will contest, or a belief that one beneficiary exerted undue influence over the decedent to get them to make a will in that beneficiary’s favor. Disputes can arise in any family, but are more common in blended families.

Whether or Not There is a Will

There are many reasons it’s better to have a will than to die intestate (without a will). One of them is that probate usually takes longer when there is no valid will. If the decedent did not set forth how their estate was to be divided, who would administer it, and who would serve as guardian for their children, the court must answer all of those questions. Court involvement is greater with intestate estates, especially if there are minor children whose needs must be provided for. The more court involvement there is in a probate matter, the longer you can expect that matter to take.

Whether or Not There is a Probate Attorney Involved

The services of a probate attorney are considered a benefit to the estate, and probate attorney fees are usually paid out of estate assets for this reason. Probate can be a complex process, and an experienced attorney can usually help the personal representative of an estate navigate it efficiently, meeting deadlines and avoiding common errors that can delay the settlement of the estate.

Preventing Delays in the Minnesota Probate Process

Making a valid will, as mentioned above, is one way to minimize delays in the probate process. But is there a way to avoid probate altogether? There is, and it can avoid other issues as well, including family disputes over the estate and the need to go through ancillary probate. The solution? Creating a living trust.

A living trust allows you to place assets in the trust and continue to use and enjoy them during your life, just as if they were still owned in your own name. You are not only the grantor (creator) of the trust during your lifetime, but the trustee and the beneficiary. After your death, a successor trustee you have chosen takes over administration of the trust for the beneficiaries you have identified, such as your spouse, children, or grandchildren. If your beneficiaries are younger, you may decide to have your successor trustee continue administering the trust until your beneficiaries are capable of managing their inheritance responsibly. Otherwise, you can specify in the trust that your successor trustee is to distribute trust assets to your beneficiaries immediately. Because assets in a trust do not go through probate, your successor trustee can distribute assets and wind down the trust in a shorter time than the probate process would likely take.

Depending on the type of trust you choose, it can offer other benefits as well. To learn more about avoiding Minnesota probate or efficiently administering the probate process in Minnesota, please contact Mundahl Law at 763-575-7930.

Having an estate plan in place is more important now than ever. Mundahl Law is proud to present a new free monthly educational series, the ABC’s of Estate Planning, to answer your questions on estate planning.

Categories: Probate