Thinking ahead, planning an estate, and finalizing a will an important step to take, even if you do not have a large number of assets or children. If you or a loved one has not taken the step to write a will before death, however, the law in Minnesota provides an avenue to make sure that an estate is settled, even without knowing the deceased’s wishes. When a person passes away without a will, he or she is said to have died “intestate.” Accordingly, the laws of “intestacy” will dictate what will happen to the assets and debts of the estate which have been left behind.
When a person passes on without a will, starting the probate process requires a person to go to court and request that the court appoint him or her as personal representative, also referred to sometimes as executor, of the estate. The court will decide whether the person is an appropriate representative, and if so, will approve the request, allowing that person to distribute the assets and settle the debts of the estate. Courts tend to prefer a family member acts as personal representative, but if none comes forward or contests the appointment of a non-family member, a court may appoint a non-family member to serve as personal representative. As with an estate involving a will, the next step will to be pay the debts of the deceased out of the assets of the estate. This will also involve sending particular notices to creditors and running an ad in the local paper to notify any unknown, potential creditors.
After all the debts of the estate have been settled, including anything from medical debt to credit card debt, the personal representative must then use the Minnesota statutes to distribute any remaining assets. According to Minnesota law, the surviving spouse will receive all of the assets. The exception to this is if the deceased has surviving children that he or she does not share with the surviving spouse. If that is the case, the surviving spouse will receive the first $150,000, and the children will share the remainder together. If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving children, the law will then look for surviving parents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, in that order. If there are still no surviving relatives, the remaining assets will be forfeited to the state.
We have extensive experience with handling intestate probate cases and can help you to move forward with your case. Call us today at (320) 299-4249 for a consultation and we can talk with you about intestacy basics.