Dealing with the death of a close friend or family member is an overwhelming time. In addition to processing your own emotions and providing support for other loved ones, there are other procedural aspects to deal with, such as probating the estate. Probate is the process of gathering the assets of the deceased, paying the debts of the estate, and distributing any remaining assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries or heirs. The personal representative is the one responsible for making sure the process runs properly according to Minnesota law, but even the most diligent and careful of personal representatives can sometimes overlook assets. It is not uncommon for someone to discover particular assets that were omitted from probate months or even years after probate is closed. They may discover stock certificates, pension plan documents, or valuable personal property belonging to the deceased that was not accounted for in the original case but still needs to be distributed.
When there are assets found after the estate is closed, a “petition for descent of omitted property” needs to be filed with the probate court. Any “interested person” may file such a petition, which includes a variety of people, but in general, includes creditors of the estate or potential heirs.
Under Minnesota statute 524.3-413, a probate court can amend or modify a previously entered decree of distribution to include property that was previously omitted. In other words, the judge can go back and reopen the probate case to either use the assets to pay properly filed claims by creditors or to distribute the assets according to the terms of the will or, if no will, according to the Minnesota laws of intestacy. When the omitted property is distributed, the personal representative will need to review the entire estate for estate tax issues. The personal representative will need to consider the entire estate including the omitted property to determine if estate taxes are owed and if so, they will need to be paid. In other words, an unscrupulous personal representative cannot pretend to forget certain property in order to escape paying estate taxes during the initial case, only to later “discover” the omitted property and distribute it, just to escape paying estate taxes.
Call us today at (320) 299-4249 and talk to us about the probate process. We can talk with you about your rights and responsibilities as a personal representative or as a beneficiary of an estate.