I Just Discovered an Inheritance from a Relative that Died a Long Time Ago.

What happens when someone passes away but her property was never distributed to her heirs? Minnesota Statutes section 525.31 authorizes an “interested person” to petition the court to determine the deceased person’s heirs and distribute her property accordingly. An “interested person” is defined as an heir, devisee, child, spouse, creditor, beneficiary, or any other person having a property right in the decedent’s estate.

This proceeding is called a Determination of Descent, which is only available if three years have elapsed since the person passed away. After three years, almost all creditor claims are prohibited and all that is left to do is distribute the decedent’s property.

A Determination of Descent proceeds like a mini probate administration. First, an interested person petitions the court. The petition includes details on the deceased person’s heirs and how her property should be distributed. The petitioner must then provide written notice of the court hearing to anyone who might benefit from the proceeding—typically the deceased person’s relatives, people named in the decedent’s will, or creditors. After the hearing, provided there were no objections to the petition, the judge usually approves the petition and the decedent’s assets can be distributed.