What Does It Take To Settle An Estate?

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In Minnesota, the clock starts running on handling the estate as soon as the personal representative or executor is appointed by the probate court.

The executor receives the "Letters Testamentary" from the court if there is a will. If there is no will, then the court issues "Letters of General Administration."

Our office will generally obtain the taxpayer identification number from the IRS.

The executor needs to set up an estate account at a bank or credit union. The executor should not deposit any estate assets into his personal bank account. The bank will require the Testamentary or General Administration letters, the taxpayer identification number and often a copy of the death certificate.

All cash estate assets and payments of debt should be handled through this account.

Claims of creditors for bills and other debts are filed with probate court or the executor. If any claim is not justified, the executor must properly reject it within a short period of time. Otherwise, the claim is presumed to be proper and the estate must pay it.

The government public assistance agencies must be notified in case the decedent or spouse had received public assistance. The government may claim that their public assistance needs to be paid back. This notice needs to go to the government even if the family is certain that no one had received public assistance. If no public assistance was given, the estate will be provided with a clearance letter that verifies this fact.

If the decedent or the decedent's spouse was not an American citizen, it may be necessary to notify the embassy of that person's nationality.

Stocks or bonds can be transferred to estate or to the heir who is to receive them through a transfer agent for the issuing company.

U.S. Savings Bonds can be cashed or transferred through the Secretary of the Treasury.

Real estate such as the house of the decedent may be transferred by a deed our office prepares. If the real estate is to be sold by the estate, it usually needs to be appraised. As a general matter, we will prepare the deed which will run from the decedent and his or her estate to the buyer.

Depending on the kind of probate, it may be necessary to obtain the court's approval for the sale of the real estate or other assets.

Once all of the assets have been collected and the creditors of the decedent have been paid, the estate is ready to proceed to the Final Account be filed with the court and distributions of inheritance to the heirs or persona named in the Will if there is one. At this time, the costs of administration of the estate are usually taken care of if they have not previously been paid.

If there is any possibility of a dispute about what payments or inheritance should be made, it is usually safest to have the probate court review and approve the payments and distributions.

The probate process usually takes six to twelve months to conclude. It can take somewhat longer if there are complications or disputes among the heirs.

In total, there are 17 tasks that need to be completed in the probate process. As in any legal proceeding, it is always wise to have an experienced legal professional working on your behalf.

The contents of this article are for information only and is not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning. The U.S. Treasury Department requires us to advise you that any written tax advice cannot be used and is not intended to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding any penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. Written advice from our firm relating to any Federal Tax matters may not, without our express written consent, be used in promoting, marketing or recommending any entity, investment plan or arrangement to any taxpayer.

About the Author

Bill Peterson is a Minnesota Probate Attorney with over 40 years of experience as a lawyer. His firm, Peterson Law Office, is pleased to help sort out the intricacies of Minnesota Probate. For more information, please visit http://www.mnprobate.com or call toll free at 1-888-910-5297.

The contents of this article are for information only and is not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning.

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