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  • Writer's pictureMike Rogers

How to Avoid Probate in Minnesota: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: May 8

“How can I avoid probate in Minnesota?”

Mike Rogers is a fiduciary financial advisor with over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry as an investment advisor and financial planner. He founded 360 Financial in 1995 and holds series 7 and 63 security registrations with LPL Financial.

Avoiding Probate Problems in Minnesota

You can avoid probate in Minnesota if you follow a solid estate planning process that includes working with an estate planning attorney, financial advisor, and accountant.

Strategies such as joint ownership, utilizing beneficiary designations, establishing a revocable living trust, and using POD and TOD accounts are popular for avoiding probate.

However, it’s critical that you work with a team of professionals who will give you advice that’s tailored to your specific situation and aligns with your values and wishes.

If you’re concerned about the potential time, costs, and stress involved in the probate process for your loved ones, you’re not alone.

Many Minnesotans are looking for ways to avoid the complexities of probate and ensure a smoother estate distribution for their families. In this overview, we will explore various strategies for how to avoid probate in Minnesota and protect your loved ones.

From joint ownership options to establishing revocable living trusts, this post will cover a range of alternatives that can save time, money, and emotional strain for your beneficiaries.

Read on to discover how you can craft a tailored plan that meets your needs, providing peace of mind for you and your family.

Avoiding Probate Problems in Minnesota

Key Takeaways

  1. Gaining an understanding of the Minnesota probate process and its associated strategies can help minimize costs, time, and privacy concerns.

  2. Joint ownership options are a popular strategy for avoiding probate in Minnesota while utilizing beneficiary designations is also effective.

  3. Establishing a Revocable Living Trust or using POD/TOD accounts may be beneficial. Consider professional assistance to craft tailored estate plans.

Basics of Avoiding Probate in Minnesota

Understanding the Minnesota probate process is crucial for avoiding formal probate in Minnesota.

But what is probate?

Probate is a probate court-administered process that involves several steps, including validating the decedent’s will, appointing a personal representative, and overseeing the distribution of the decedent’s assets. In Minnesota, probate can be a lengthy and costly. A public probate proceeding often takes several months or even years to complete. The role of a probate registrar is essential in this process, as they ensure the proper administration of the probate court’s duties.

Minnesota law requires probate for estates valued at more than $75,000, if the deceased owned real estate solely in their name, or if there is an estate checking account.

Avoiding probate helps to:

  1. Reduce costs

  2. Save time

  3. Ensure privacy

  4. Comply with the decedent’s wishes.

Gaining insights into the intricacies of the probate process, including informal probate, allows you to leverage various strategies to bypass probate, expedite estate distribution, and safeguard your family’s future.

Basics of Avoiding Probate in Minnesota

The Importance of Avoiding Probate in Minnesota

Avoiding probate in Minnesota is beneficial for both you and your beneficiaries.

First and foremost, avoiding probate can save time and money. It can reduce stress for your loved ones. Probate proceedings can be lengthy and expensive. Probate involves court fees, attorney fees, and other costs. Avoiding probate allows your assets to be distributed as per your wishes, eliminating the need for a time-consuming and costly legal process.

Moreover, avoiding probate can help maintain privacy for your estate and beneficiaries.

Probate proceedings are public records, which means that anyone can access information about your assets, debts, and beneficiaries. Utilizing strategies to bypass probate can help safeguard the privacy of your estate and loved ones, and lessen the likelihood of disputes over assets.

The Importance of Avoiding Probate in Minnesota

Joint Ownership Options

Joint ownership options are a popular strategy for avoiding probate in Minnesota.

Holding assets jointly with another person means the assets transfer directly to the surviving owner upon your death, thereby bypassing the probate necessity.

Two common types of joint ownership arrangements are joint tenancy with rights of survivorship and tenancy by the entirety. While each option has its own unique features and benefits, both allow for the automatic transfer of ownership to the surviving owner without the need for probate.

Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship

Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (JTWROS) is a type of property ownership where two or more individuals own the property together. Upon the passing of one owner, their share of the property is automatically transferred to the surviving owner(s) without going through probate. JTWROS is frequently employed to avert probate and ensure a seamless transfer of property upon the death of one owner.

The primary benefit of joint tenancy with rights of survivorship is the avoidance of probate, resulting in a more expedited process and cost savings. However, it is important to note that joint tenancy with rights of survivorship does not offer any protection from creditors or lawsuits.

Tenancy by the Entirety

Tenancy by the entirety is another form of joint ownership that is only available to married couples. Similar to joint tenancy with rights of survivorship, tenancy by the entirety allows spouses to own property as a single legal entity, with the surviving spouse automatically assuming sole ownership upon the death of the other spouse.

The primary advantage of tenancy by the entirety is the protection it offers from creditors and other legal matters, as well as the seamless transition of ownership in the event of one spouse’s death.

However, it is essential to remember that tenancy by the entirety is only accessible to married couples and may not be available in all jurisdictions. Additionally, transferring ownership of the property in the event of a divorce can be challenging.

Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship

Utilizing Beneficiary Designations

Another strategy for avoiding probate in Minnesota is to utilize beneficiary designations for assets such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and investment accounts. Designating beneficiaries for these assets ensures their direct transfer to the named beneficiaries upon your death, circumventing the probate process.

Designating a beneficiary for your financial accounts is a simple and effective way to avoid probate, ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and without unnecessary delays or expenses. However, it is crucial to review and update your beneficiary designations periodically, especially after major life events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child, to ensure your assets are distributed according to your current wishes.

Establishing a Revocable Living Trust

Establishing a revocable living trust is another strategy that may help you to avoid probate in Minnesota.

A living trust is a legal instrument that allows you to transfer your assets to a trust during your lifetime, bypassing probate and ensuring a smooth distribution of your estate upon your death.

Creating a revocable living trust offers several benefits:

  1. Retain control over your assets during your lifetime

  2. Make changes or revoke the trust as needed

  3. Avoid the need for probate upon your death

  4. Ensure the privacy of your estate and beneficiaries

  5. Save time and cost associated with probate

Establishing a revocable living trust is another strategy that may help you to avoid probate in Minnesota.

Payable-on-Death (POD) and Transfer-on-Death (TOD) Accounts

Payable-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) bank accounts are another excellent option for avoiding probate in Minnesota.

These types of accounts allow you to designate beneficiaries who will receive the assets in the account upon your death, bypassing the probate process. The process of setting up POD and TOD accounts is quite simple. All you need to do is appoint a beneficiary and submit the required paperwork to the associated financial institution. You can modify or revoke the beneficiary designation at any time, providing flexibility and control over your assets.

By utilizing POD and TOD accounts, you can ensure a direct transfer of your assets to your named beneficiaries without the need for probate, saving time and money in the process.

Payable-on-Death (POD) and Transfer-on-Death (TOD) Accounts

Transfer-on-Death Deeds for Real Estate

Transfer-on-death deeds for real estate are another tool for avoiding probate in Minnesota. These deeds allow property owners to designate beneficiaries who will inherit the decedent’s estate, specifically the property, upon their death, without the need for probate.

However this may not be the best option for everyone.

It’s critical that you speak with your financial advisor and estate planning attorney about the pros and cons of using TOD Deeds for Real Estate.

To create a transfer-on-death deed, you must complete a form and submit it to the county recorder’s office, detailing the property owner’s name, the beneficiary’s name, and a description of the property. Upon your death, the property will be transferred directly to the named beneficiary, bypassing the probate process and ensuring a smooth and efficient transfer of ownership.

Transfer-on-death deeds may not be apt for all property types.

Gifting Assets Prior to Death

Gifting assets prior to death can be an effective way to avoid probate and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes. By transferring assets to your beneficiaries before your death, you can reduce the size of your estate and potentially minimize estate taxes.

Although gifting assets before death can help to avoid probate, it’s important to consider potential tax implications and comply with gift tax laws.

Small Estate Affidavit Procedure

For estates below a certain value, the small estate affidavit procedure can provide a simplified estate settlement, helping to avoid the full probate process. In Minnesota, the affidavit for the collection of tangible personal property is applicable for estates worth less than $75,000, allowing heirs to bypass the complexities of probate if the estate is valued below this threshold. (+)

Utilizing the small estate affidavit procedure can provide significant time and cost savings for your beneficiaries, as well as ensuring a more streamlined estate settlement process. However, being aware of the monetary threshold and requirements for this procedure is vital because it may not fit all estates, especially those subject to federal estate tax.

A legal document with a stamp of Minnesota state, illustrating the process of how to avoid probate in Minnesota with the help of a professional

Seeking Professional Assistance

Avoiding probate in Minnesota can be challenging, especially for those unfamiliar with the legal and financial aspects of estate planning. Seeking professional assistance from estate planning attorneys, financial advisors, and estate planners can provide invaluable guidance and expertise to help you craft a tailored plan that meets your unique needs and objectives.

Professionals can help you with the following:

  1. Evaluate your specific situation

  2. Recommend strategies such as creating living trusts or utilizing beneficiary designations

  3. Help you navigate potential legal pitfalls

By enlisting the support of experienced professionals, you can ensure the protection of your assets and loved ones, as well as a seamless and efficient estate distribution process.


Avoiding probate is an essential aspect of estate planning in Minnesota. It can save your family time, money, and emotional strain. By employing strategies such as joint ownership options, beneficiary designations, revocable living trusts, and more, you can ensure a seamless estate distribution process that protects your assets and your loved ones.

As you begin the estate planning process, remember that seeking professional assistance from attorneys, financial advisors, and estate planners is key. They will help you create a tailored plan that meets your unique needs and objectives.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Can probate be avoided in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, probate can be avoided in many ways such as by establishing a living trust for your assets or by ensuring that certain assets, like property owned as joint tenants, have designated beneficiaries. Additionally, it is possible to avoid probate for life insurance proceeds, jointly held bank accounts, and pension benefits with a designated beneficiary.

To avoid probate in Minnesota for real estate, you can set up joint tenancy with co-owners, establish a living trust, or complete a Transfer on Death Deed and file it with the relevant county. Each of these options is an effective way to keep your real estate out of probate. However it’s important that you speak with your estate planning attorney and financial advisor before you take action as they can help you with your specific situation.

Does an estate have to go through probate in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, if the estate is worth less than $75,000 at the time of death, it may not need to go through probate. Assets worth more than $75,000 will have to go through probate unless a beneficiary or joint holder is named.

What assets are subject to probate in Minnesota?

Assets owned solely in the deceased’s name without a named beneficiary usually go through probate. This can include real estate, bank accounts, and personal property.

How long does the probate process typically take in Minnesota?

The duration varies but often lasts several months to over a year, depending on the estate’s complexity and potential disputes.

How much does it typically cost to set up a living trust in Minnesota?

Costs vary based on complexity but generally range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. It’s best to consult with attorneys for precise estimates.

Can I avoid probate in Minnesota if I have a will?

A will doesn’t avoid probate; it guides the probate process. To sidestep probate, you’d need tools like trusts and beneficiary designations.

Mike Rogers

About the Author

Mike Rogers

Mike Rogers is the founder and president of Minnesota-based financial advisory firm 360 Financial. As the founder, Mike’s priority is that 360 Financial always serves the clients with empathy, integrity, and honesty. This customized, client-centric approach allows the firm to help clients decipher between the things they can control and what truly matters.

In other words, Mike understands that money is not the end-all-be-all; instead, it’s the “how” that fuels the “why” to the question: “What’s important to you?”

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This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.


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