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By Your Side Throughout Probate And Estate Administration

Probate is the legal proceeding by which a decedent’s estate is collected, accounted for, administered and distributed. After a loved one has died, handling probate matters can add to an already difficult time.

Trojack & Schniederjan Law Office P.A. has probated hundreds of estates over more than 35 years. We have the experience and knowledge to probate an estate efficiently and in a cost-effective manner. Whether you are responsible for settling your loved one’s estate or are concerned about protecting your inheritance rights, we are equipped to protect your interests. When you retain us, we will use our expansive legal insight to help you navigate the process while addressing any problematic issues that arise.

Understanding The Process

The length of a probate depends greatly on the size of the estate, the number of creditors, and the relationships among the personal representative, heirs and beneficiaries. For an average-sized estate with few creditors and amicable parties, the entire process generally takes less than a year. Estates with real property, such as a house, tend to take longer.

In an informal probate, the person appointed by the will must apply to the court to be appointed as the “personal representative” of the estate, formerly called an “executor.” Once the application is reviewed and approved by the court, the court will issue “letters testamentary” a document that evidences the personal representative’s authority to act on behalf of the estate. If there is no will, the court issues “letters of general administration,” which empowers the personal representative to administer the estate.

The Personal Representative’s Role

A personal representative is a person or persons approved by the court to administer the decedent’s estate per the terms of his or her will or as defined by statute if the decedent did not leave a will. A personal representative owes a fiduciary duty to the estate, and has specific duties, including the duty:

  1. To deal with the interests of the creditors and beneficiaries impartially
  2. To administer the estate solely as the will dictates with regard to the interest of the creditors and beneficiaries (as opposed to the personal representative’s own interests)
  3. To maintain the duty of undivided loyalty
  4. To act reasonably and prudently

Whether you or a loved one has been selected to serve as a personal representative, it is critical to fulfill these duties. Making a mistake can have costly legal consequences. Our attorneys can help you carry out your obligations and document the actions that you take to settle the estate. As your advocate, we strive to help you minimize your legal liabilities.

In Minnesota, personal representatives are tasked with a variety of duties. Depending on your situation, you may be required to:

  • Notify (by publication in a local newspaper or by mail) any possible and known creditors of the decedent, and to pay legitimate claims. During the creditors’ period, the personal representative will likely deal with valuing, consolidating or liquidating the estate’s assets. After the creditors’ period is over, the personal representative may make distributions to creditors, heirs or beneficiaries. An estate can close once all of the assets are transferred out of the decedent’s name, all legitimate claims are satisfied, all beneficiary interests are satisfied, and applicable tax returns are filed and paid.
  • Administer the estate. After receiving the court approval, the personal representative is empowered to open and maintain an estate bank account, sell, transfer, or encumber real property, sell or transfer assets, consolidate bank accounts, and deal with creditors.
  • Create an estate inventory of all of the decedent’s assets (real and personal). This inventory may include applicable titling and date-of-death values, managing the estate assets until the court approves the closing of the estate, keeping accurate records of the estate’s transactions, and making distributions to creditors, heirs or beneficiaries.

Whether or not the personal representative elects to take a fee for his or her services, the personal representative should keep track of the time he or she spends working on the administration of the estate. Our attorneys are well-versed in these accounting requirements as well as the time-consuming tasks that can add stress and uncertainty to the probate process. From the beginning until the end of your probate matter, you can rely on us to remain by your side, providing the sound counsel that you need.

Take The First Step Toward Resolving Your Probate Concerns

We invite you to consult with a knowledgeable lawyer at our firm about your probate matter. You can reach our West St. Paul office over the phone at 651-461-3952 or by reaching out online to arrange your appointment.