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Helping You Navigate Complex Legal Issues

Avoiding probate when passing on real estate

Gregory A. Lang

For some people in Minnesota, the primary valuable asset they may want passed on after they die is real estate. Real estate may be the residential home in which the person lives or it may involve other real estate holdings. It is possible to ensure the real estate held passes to the person's intended beneficiaries without necessitating the expense and potential litigation of the probate process.

Some people choose to establish a trust for purposes of passing on the real estate. When such a trust is established, the grantor then transfers ownership of the property to the trust itself, naming the person to whom he or she intends to pass the real estate holdings to as the beneficiary. Trust assets do not go through probate court, but instead will pass as directed by the trust documents.

People may also choose to change their deeds to the property to include both themselves as well as the intended beneficiary. If this is done, the change should be to joint tenants-in-common with the right of survivorship. However, under these circumstances, the intended beneficiary may force the sale of the property in an effort to access his or her equity share while the benefactor is still alive.

No matter the extent of an estate, many people want to avoid the necessity of their family members going through probate litigation. The probate process can be lengthy, contentious and can drain the estate's assets through the required fees. Those who are considering how to handle passing their estate to their intended beneficiaries may want to discuss avenues to avoid the probate court with an attorney. By careful planning individualized to the grantor's needs and wishes, it is possible to pass assets smoothly and devoid of future litigation.

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