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How Much Probate Costs in Minnesota


Probate costs in Minnesota can vary significantly based on the complexity of the estate and the specifics of the case. Generally, probate expenses include court fees, attorney fees and personal representative fees. In Minnesota, court filing fees are relatively low, but attorney fees can be substantial, often calculated as a percentage of the estate’s value or billed hourly. Additionally, personal representatives are entitled to reasonable compensation for their services, which can add to the overall cost. The state also allows for reimbursing costs such as appraisal fees, bond premiums and publication fees for public notices. For your own estate planning, consider how a financial advisor can help you.

How the Probate Process Works in Minnesota

In Minnesota, probate is the legal process of settling a deceased person’s estate, ensuring that debts are paid, and remaining assets are distributed to heirs. The process begins when a probate petition is filed with the county court. Depending on the estate’s complexity, probate can be formal or informal. Informal probate is typically faster and less costly, suitable for uncontested cases with straightforward asset distribution. Formal probate is necessary when there are disputes among heirs or complexities in the estate.

The first step in Minnesota’s probate process is filing a petition with the probate court in the county where the decedent resided. This petition, filed by an executor named in the will or an interested party, asks the court to open the probate case. The court then appoints a personal representative, often the executor, to manage the estate. This representative is responsible for gathering assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property to beneficiaries.

After settling debts and taxes, the remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries. If the decedent left a will, the personal representative followed the instructions laid out in the document. In the absence of a will, Minnesota’s intestacy laws determine the distribution, typically favoring spouses and children. The personal representative must also prepare a final account for the court, detailing all transactions and distributions made from the estate.

Fixed Costs of Probate in Minnesota

One of the first expenses you’ll encounter in Minnesota probate is the filing fee. This fee is required to open a probate case and is paid to the county court where the deceased resided. In Minnesota, the filing fee in Minnesota is $285, at the time of writing. This fee covers the administrative costs of processing the probate application and is non-negotiable.

Court fees are another unavoidable expense in the Minnesota probate process. These fees can include charges for copies of court documents, certificates and other administrative services. While these fees might seem minor individually, they can add up throughout the probate process. The deposit of wills fee in Minnesota is $27, for example.

Minnesota law requires that notice of the probate proceeding be published in a local newspaper once per week for two successive weeks to inform potential creditors and other interested parties. This publication fee ensures transparency and allows creditors to make claims against the estate. The cost of publication can vary widely depending on the newspaper and the length of the notice, but it generally ranges from $50 to $300. This fee must be paid upfront and is a crucial step in the probate process.

Additional Costs of Probate

A senior couple working with a financial advisor to set up an estate plan in Minnesota.

Other fees during probate are less predictable but are often needed. One of the primary costs associated with probate in Minnesota is accountant fees. These fees are necessary for preparing and filing the estate’s final income tax returns, as well as for providing financial advice throughout the probate process. Accountants may charge an hourly rate or a flat fee, depending on the complexity of the estate.

Attorney fees are another significant expense in the probate process. In Minnesota, probate attorneys typically charge either an hourly rate or a percentage of the estate’s value. The longer the probate process takes, the more money that you can expect to pay toward your attorney.

For larger estates, some attorneys may opt to charge a percentage of the estate’s value, which can be as much as 1-4%. This percentage is based on the gross value of the estate, which includes all assets before any debts or taxes are subtracted. Given these rates, legal fees can easily become one of the largest probate expenses.

Appraiser fees are also a common additional cost in the probate process. These fees are incurred when the estate includes assets that need to be professionally valued, such as real estate, jewelry or artwork. In Minnesota, appraisers usually charge a flat fee or an hourly rate for their services and can be hundreds of dollars.

How to Avoid Probate in Minnesota

Probate can be a lengthy and costly process, but there are several strategies to help you avoid it in Minnesota. One of the most effective methods is setting up a trust. Trusts are legal arrangements where a trustee holds and manages assets on behalf of beneficiaries, allowing these assets to bypass the probate process.

A thorough estate plan is another critical component in avoiding probate. This plan typically includes a will, power of attorney, healthcare directives and beneficiary designations. In Minnesota, it’s essential to regularly update these documents to reflect any changes in your life circumstances, such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child. Naming beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and payable-on-death bank accounts can also help your assets transfer directly to your heirs, avoiding probate.

Joint ownership arrangements, such as joint tenancy with the right of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety for married couples, can also help avoid probate in Minnesota. When a property is owned jointly, it automatically passes to the surviving owner upon death, without needing to go through probate. It’s impoertant to document these arrangements to ensure they are recognized by Minnesota law.

Minnesota allows the use of transfer-on-death (TOD) deeds for real estate, which can be a valuable tool in avoiding probate. A TOD deed lets you name a beneficiary who will inherit your property upon your death. This deed must be recorded with the county recorder’s office while you are alive, and it can be revoked or changed at any time.

Another strategy to avoid probate is gifting assets while you are still alive. Minnesota does not impose a gift tax, allowing you to transfer ownership of assets to your heirs without the need for probate. However, it’s important to consider potential impacts on Medicaid eligibility and other financial assistance programs when gifting significant assets.

Bottom Line

A couple setting up an estate plan to avoid probate in Minnesota.

Probate can cost you time and money, which isn’t necessary in many cases. If your estate is valued at more than $75,000, then you’ll need to plan ahead to protect your assets from the probate process. A popular strategy to avoid probate is setting up a trust. Other ways include joint ownership arrangements, transfer-on-death (TOD) deeds for real estate and gifting money.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • A financial advisor can help you create an estate plan to effectively protect your assets from probate. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • If you’re wanting to get started on your own estate plan, consider using this estate planning checklist to help you get started.

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