What Is a Decree of Descent?

a couple meeting with an attorneyWhen a loved one passes away, there are many steps that you and your family will often take.  These steps often start with grieving, but will also include other issues, such as cleaning out personal property, locating possible heirs, and possibly putting the estate through probate.  In Minnesota, either formal or informal probate may be commenced within three years of the decedent’s death.  However, sometimes for varying reasons, three years may pass without probate ever being commenced.  In such a circumstance, it may then be appropriate to apply for a Decree of Descent.

Any interested party may file a petition for a Decree of Descent in Minnesota.  “Interested party” is a legal term that means a person whose rights or property interests could potentially be impacted by the process.  In other words, potential heirs or beneficiaries are typically the ones filing, but government agencies or creditors, such as the Internal Revenue Service, could also be interested parties if the estate owes taxes.  The reason an interested party would want to file a petition for a Decree of Descent would be if there is property or assets that needs to be transferred or re-titled.  This cannot be accomplished without a court order.  For example, if the decedent owned a vehicle titled solely in her name at the time of her death, that car cannot be re-titled in someone else’s name without a court order, which must be obtained either through probate or by obtaining a Decree of Descent.

After an interested party files a petition for a Decree of Descent, the court will set a time for a hearing.  The potential heirs and creditors of the deceased must be given proper, legal notice of the time and place of the hearing.  There are specific time limits for this notice, meaning that the beneficiaries and creditors must be given ample notice.  Moreover, a notice of the hearing must be published in the newspaper for two consecutive weeks before the hearing can go forward.

If you are an interested person, you should be aware that a Decree of Descent is not always an option.  There are exceptions to when this option is available.

Let us help you understand the probate or Decree of Descent process. Call us at (651) 371-9117 for a consultation.