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Definitions in Minnesota Law

Guardianship • Conservatorship • Probate

Abatement: When an estate has insufficient assets to settle all gifts made by will, after all legal obligations are satisfied.

Administration: In probate, collecting and managing estate assets, settling claims, paying taxes, and reporting distributions to devisees and heirs.

Attorney-in-Fact: The person granted powers by a letter of power of attorney.

Beneficiary: A person who is entitled to receive property as instructed by a document with authority to grant gifts, such as a will, a trust, a life insurance policy, or a retirement account.

Bequest: A gift.

Claim: A claim against an estate or a protected person, in the framework of conservatorship, includes a claim against the individual, whether from a dispute in contract law, tort law, or any other area of law, and a claim against an estate that arises after a conservator is appointed, which can include the expense and cost of administration of the estate.

Codicil: An amendment to a will that legally modifies its contents but does not revoke the original instrument (at least, not in its entirety).

Conservator: A person who is appointed by a district court to manage the estate of a protected person. A conservator is the broad term for a general conservator and a limited conservator. There is no conservator of a person in Minnesota law; this has been changed exclusively to guardian of a person.

Court: As used in Minnesota law, a court generally refers to a district court. Court can also mean hearings before a referee or the courts of appeal.

Custodian: A person who has control over some property of another person.

Decedent: A person who has died.

Descendant: A person who by genetics or adoption follows in the familial line of another, so long as the descent is legally recognized.

Devise: A gift by last will and testament.

Devisee: The person to whom the gift is given.

Durable Power of Attorney: A grant of authority to another person, which is enforced regardless of the legal capacity of the grantor.

Estate: The extent of all assets and liabilities of a decedent.

Fiduciary: A person who is in a position of duty to another; a fiduciary generally has financial or other decision-making authority on behalf of the other.

Formal Proceedings: Probate before a court.

Guardian: A a person who is appointed by a district court, by petition, either by nomination or as directed by a parent or spouse depending on circumstances. A guardian makes decisions, other than over an estate or assets, on behalf of an incapacitated person or a minor. Guardian can refer to a guardian with general powers, a limited guardian, an emergency guardian, or a temporary substitute guardian, but it does not refer to a guardian ad litem.

Guardian ad litem: A guardian appointed by a court to represent the interests of an individual who is unable to self-represent.

Health Care Directive: A written appointment of an agent to make decisions about medical treatment for one who is unable to make such decisions. Often, an HCD includes instructions to the agent.

Incapacitated Person: An incapacitated person is an individual who is legally impaired to the extent that he or she lacks sufficient capacity or understanding required to make or communicate responsible personal decisions. Being a minor is not a legal incapacity in this regard and is treated separately. The incapacitated person exhibits behavior that demonstrates an inability to meet his or her own personal needs for medical care, nutrition, clothing, shelter, or safety. If the person can make none of these decisions, then a general guardian is usually necessary. If the person is only limited in one area, then a limited guardian might be appropriate.

Informal Proceedings: Probate before a registrar.

Interested Person: An interested person is one whose rights or relationship might be affected by the appointment of a guardian or conservator, or whose rights or property interests may be affected in probate proceedings. For example, the ward or protected person is him- or herself considered to be an interested person, because his or her rights will be limited by such an appointment. The person who is nominated as guardian or conservator is an interested person. Other interested persons include legal representatives, spouse, parents, adult children, adult siblings, and other adults who have lived with the ward or protected person for a certain amount of time. Government agencies and health care agents or proxies can also be interested persons.

Intestacy, Intestate: When a person dies without a will.

Legal Representative: A legal representative includes a representative payee, a guardian, a conservator, or a trustee who is already appointed to act on behalf of the ward or protected person (estate).

Letters: Letters give the appointed person legal authority to act on behalf of the person or the estate. Letters are the actual, legal document that prove the authority. Letters include letters of guardianship, letters of conservatorship, letters testamentary, and letters of general administration.

Living Will: Usually synonymous with an advance health care directive, a living will provides instructions for a person's medical treatment is he or she becomes incapacitated.

Minor: A minor is an unemancipated person who has not reached the age of eighteen years.

Next of Kin: While we use the term colloquially, next of kin is determined by the court and used when close relations do not exist.

Parent: A parent is a biological or adoptive parent whose parental rights have not been terminated in court proceedings.

Person: A person is an individual, corporation, agency, business trust, estate, government, government subdivision, limited liability company, partnership, trust, association, joint venture, or any other legally recognized entity.

Personal Representative: A person appointed by the court or registrar to administer the estate of the decedent and distribute the property according to will or statute.

Power of Attorney: A document that grants legal power to act on behalf of the person granting the power.

Probate: A legal proceeding whereby a will is declared valid or invalid and the estate is administered accordingly.

Protected Person: A protected person is a minor or incapacitated person for whom a court has appointed a conservator.

Remainder: The interest in an estate that does not revert to the grantor but is granted to another person. For example, person A grants to person B a certain property X, with all remainder (however much that might be, minus X) to person C.
Residue: The portion of the decedent's property that is not gifted by name in the will.

Respondent: A respondent is an individual for whom the appointment of a guardian or conservator is sought. The respondent will be the ward or protected person.

Reversion: The interest in an estate remaining in the grantor after a particular interest has been granted by the owner to another person.

Settlor: A person who creates a trust; trustor, grantor, donor.

Special Administrator: A person appointed by the court to safeguard the assets of an estate pending the appointment of a personal representative.

Succession: Entitlement to property or assets of an estate, either by will or statute.

Testacy, Testate: Having a valid will at death.

Testator: The person who made the will.

Trust: An arrangement whereby the trustee takes title to property for the benefit of a beneficiary.

Trustee: The person who holds legal title to property in trust; the person who controls and administers a trust.

Ward: A ward is a minor or an incapacitated person for whom a court has appointed a guardian.

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Service Areas: I am willing to represent clients throughout Minnesota, including Anoka County, Beltrami County, Carver County, Dodge County, Fillmore County, Grant County, Houston County, Itasca County, Kandiyohi County, or Lake County, just to name a few. Whether you are in Minneapolis or Saint Paul, Shoreview, Roseville, Fridley, Edina, Eagan, or Wayzata, or further out in cities like Rochester, Mankato, Saint Cloud, Duluth, I will represent you.