Will My Estate Have to Go Through Probate?

Probate protects the interests of the estate's beneficiaries and creditors by ensuring the orderly distribution of assets and payment of debts/expenses. People often confuse the probate process with estate taxes and high-value estates. However, while estate taxes can be paid during the probate process, whether or not an estate actually goes through probate is determined by the type of property and title to property in the estate, not the value of the property.

Probate is a judicial process triggered by the death of someone who owned probate property. Therefore, in order for an estate to go through probate, the estate must first contain probate property.

Probate Property is generally property owned in a decedent's name alone, such as personal property, bank accounts, automobiles, stocks, etc. Probate property also includes real estate if the real estate is titled in the decedent's name alone or as a tenant in common. If the decedent does not have any probate property, you will generally not have to open a probate proceeding.

Even if your estate contains probate assets, there is another requirement before probate becomes necessary. In Minnesota, the net value of your probate assets must be greater than $50,000. If the net value of your probate assets is less than $50,000, then you can still choose to go through probate. However, you can alternatively choose to collect and distribute the assets through the use of an Affidavit of Collection – a much cheaper and faster process than probate.

If your estate meets the above qualifications, it is likely that your estate will have to be probated. Strategies for avoiding probate (and whether probate avoidance is even beneficial) are discussed in separate posts.