The following is a general description of procedures and basic information about the Probate process in Dakota County Probate Court. This information is not intended to advise participants on legal issues, nor is it intended to be a substitute for a lawyer or legal advice. By statute, court employees may not give legal advice.
Probate is the legal process of settling an estate. A determination of heirship is made and a personal representative is appointed. If the decedent had a will, the court determines the validity of the will. The Minnesota Statutes and the Probate Court Rules govern the probate process.
Depositing a Will for Safekeeping
Dakota County has jurisdiction over the deposit of wills for safekeeping and provides the service of allowing the public to file their original wills with the court. Wills remain with the Court even after death. If a probate proceeding is initiated, the will is filed with the estate file. Original wills are considered permanent court records and copies may be released by the court only upon proof of death. Listed below is deposit and withdrawal information:
- Only Dakota County residents may deposit their wills with the Dakota County Probate Court.
- Wills may be deposited by a testator or someone under their direction.
- The will must be submitted in a sealed envelope with name, address and date of birth on the outside of the envelope.
- The deposit filing fee.
- After a will is filed for safekeeping, the testator will receive a Certificate of Deposit and an Affidavit of Withdrawal. The Affidavit of Withdrawal is used if a testator decides to withdraw the will at a later date.
- There are two ways to withdraw a will –
- By mail – Complete and send the signed, witnessed and notarized Affidavit of Withdrawal form.
- In person – Present the Affidavit of Withdrawal form that has been signed, witnessed and notarized. If this form is not available, we require a driver’s license or state ID card.
Probate court has jurisdiction over cases that involve the disposition of property belonging to persons that have died. The Probate court operates under the Uniform Probate Code, Minnesota Statutes 524 and 525 and the Rules of Civil Procedure. The first step is to determine if a probate proceeding is necessary or not. All estates are not required to be probated. Under the Minnesota Probate Statute the decedent must own real estate in their name alone or have probate assets that total more than $50,000.00. You may want the assistance of an attorney or legal advisor to help in making a determination as to which way to proceed. Below are the most frequently used procedures.
TYPES OF PROCEEDINGS
Informal probate is designed for estates in which there is no need for court supervision or a judicial adjudication. To qualify for the informal process, an estate must be free of uncertainties, legal disputes or complex administrative requirements. The Probate Registrar has the ability to decline an application if it is determined that all the statutory requirements are not met. Once the forms are completed and accepted the Probate Registrar appoints the personal representative.
Formal Probate (Unsupervised/ Supervised)
Formal proceedings require a hearing before the Judge. In Dakota County no appearance by the attorney or personal representative is necessary at this hearing unless an objection is filed with the court.
Determination of Descent
When a decedent has been dead for more than three years and no prior proceedings exist, statutes require the estate to be processed through Determination of Descent proceedings. See Minnesota Statutes for requirements and procedures or contact an attorney or legal advisor.
If the gross probate assets of an estate do not exceed $100,000.00 (excluding the exempt homestead), the estate may qualify for a Summary Assignment. There are two Summary Assignment subtypes: Exempt Summary and Non-Exempt Summary. See Minnesota Statutes for requirements and procedures or contact an attorney or legal advisor.
Roles of the Personal Representative
The principle duties of the personal representative are –
- Determine whether decedent left a will.
- Prepare a list of names, ages, addresses of decedent’s heirs and devisees.
- Compile a list of probate and non-probate assets and their value.
- Protect and preserve assets.
- Pay taxes and debts and distribute remaining assets.
The personal representative is personally responsible for probating the estate completely and correctly, according to statute, and to bring it to a prompt conclusion. Most estates are expected to be completed within an 18 month period. If additional time is needed, petition the court for an extension.
Probate/Estate Frequently Asked Questions
Does everyone need a Will?
- If a person dies without a will the state inheritance laws will direct how property will be divided. By having a will the decedent’s wishes are made known to the Court for the probate process. Contact a legal adviser for help in making decisions regarding a will.
How do I get Letters?
- The personal representative is in charge of handling the estate of the decedent. In an informal probate the Registrar appoints the personal representative. In formal probate the Judge appoints the personal representative. In both circumstances all the necessary paperwork is required to be filed before issuance. The selection of informal or formal probate or of an alternative procedural option is the responsibility of the personal representative and/or the attorney.
What can I do if the decedent owes me money?
- Once an estate has been filed, a person may file a Written Statement of Claim with the court or the personal representative. Questions about validity of a claim may be answered by an attorney or legal advisor. See Minnesota Statute 524.3-804 & 806.
What is a Demand for Notice?
- A person desiring notice of any order or filing pertaining to a decedent’s estate in which the person has an interest may file a Demand for Notice with the Court after the death of the decedent. When a Demand for Notice is received the Court will mail a copy of the Demand for Notice to the personal representative and attorney.
Do I need to probate the Estate?
- If the decedent has no ownership in real estate or has less than $50,000.00 in probate assets refer to the form Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property. See Minnesota Statute 524.3-1201. This document is not filed with the Probate Court.
Who arranges for publication?
- The petitioner or the petitioner’s attorney should arrange for publication. The court will send to you a list of qualified legal newspapers in Dakota County.
Where can I file probate documents?
- The Probate Court of Dakota County is located at 1560 Highway 55, Hastings, MN 55033.
Does a durable power of attorney continue after death?
- This power ceases immediately upon death. This form is not filed with the Probate Court.
Where can I find more Probate forms?
- You can find Probate forms at the Minnesota court forms web page.