Minnesota Probate Law | How Ethical Personal Representatives Avoid Lawsuits

Minnesota Probate LawWhen most people have their Wills drafted, they choose highly responsible and wise family members or friends to serve as their personal representatives. Likewise, when someone dies without a Will (intestate), probate courts appoint well-qualified individuals to serve in this role.

While acting as a fiduciary, your personal representative has legal permission to manage your assets so that if your estate is large enough, all of your outstanding debts can be paid and all gifts can be distributed to your named beneficiaries.

Yet as straightforward as this process sounds, problems can easily arise. Here’s a look at the main duties your personal representative must handle, along with tips for addressing these tasks in a timely and fully transparent or honest fashion. When any unique challenges develop, many personal representatives request the help of a Minnesota probate attorney.

Key Duties Required of a Minnesota Personal Representative

  1. Must locate and protect all estate assets. After properly notifying all of the testator’s creditors and beneficiaries that the probate process has begun, the personal representative must carefully locate and appraise all of the estate assets. S/he must then make sure they’re kept in a secure location throughout the probate process. When necessary and affordable, outside appraisers can help the personal representative make sure accurate values are assigned to all assets;
  1. All legitimate, outstanding creditor debts presented must be paid, along with all probate expenses. Minnesota creditors have up to four months to present their valid claims against the estate if they want them to be paid. Common probate expenses can include all funeral/burial expenses, final medical bills, all legitimate debts owed to creditors, attorney fees, and all taxes due;
  1. A formal inventory must be prepared and presented to the court, indicating all of the testator’s assets. This list should also include the fair market value of each asset at the time of the testator’s death. Should there be any outstanding liens against any property, the specific dollar amount owed and all related information should also be included. All debts should also be noted in the inventory, including specific information regarding each creditor/party that must be repaid. A wise personal representative will share this information with the beneficiaries as s/he deems appropriate. It can also help to meet with the beneficiaries and answer  their questions about the probate process;
  2. A final accounting of the estate must be presented to the court. Every transaction conducted by the personal representative on behalf of the estate must be properly recorded and documented in writing for the court. This allows the judge to make sure that all funds expended have been legitimately spent. Receipts must be kept for all services rendered to the personal representative in the course of his/her duties. Should it appear at this stage that the estate will not be able to give each beneficiary all that was originally promised, the personal representative might want to ask for the court’s advice on how to address this issue with them;
  1. A final distribution of all gifts should be made to the beneficiaries. Since some estates may not be large enough  to transfer all promised gifts to the beneficiaries, it’s often wise for a personal representative who has been promised a set payment for his/her services to fist meet with the beneficiaries before accepting any personal payment. These individuals must realize that Minnesota personal representatives are often paid between $25 — $50 an hour for their services, unless higher fees were guaranteed based upon the representative’s professional status and experience. A proper fee can usually be agreed upon, once the beneficiaries can see that they are being awarded the maximum percentage possible of the original gifts or funds promised to them.

As implied above, personal representatives can often avoid lawsuits if they’ll meet with all interested beneficiaries throughout the probate process.  If a Minnesota probate attorney has been hired by the personal representative, s/he may want this lawyer to create a document for all of the beneficiaries to sign — indicating that they understand why they’re receiving less than was originally set aside for them — and that they’re in agreement with the final accounting.

Minnesota attorneys and lawyers

If you have questions about the home, transfer of title to real property, or other Minnesota probate questions, contact Flanders Law Firm LLC at 612-424-0398.

Related posts:

Previous post:

Next post: