How Does Probate Work in Colorado?

By shaye • July 12th, 2010

Probate is the term for the process of formally disposing of a decedent’s possessions after their death. These days, by far the majority of probates in Colorado are simplified and not supervised by any court. It’s important to note however, that within ten days of a person’s death, their will must be filed with the district court, even if there will be no probate.

There are assets which are “non-probate”. Examples would be:

· A joint account between spouses, where the other spouse automatically gets the money in that account when one spouse dies

· Assets which name a specific beneficiary, such as a life insurance policy or a retirement account

When a probate is required

Those assets considered “probate assets” cannot be passed automatically to any beneficiary, but must be dealt with by the probate system. Examples of probate assets are:

· Stocks

· Automobiles

· Real estate

· Personal items

· Household items

· Bank accounts held individually

There are three ways of passing probate assets to heirs:

1. By affidavit

This can be done when the value of the assets is less than $50,000. The heir fills out the affidavit, which can be obtained at an attorney’s office or at the Colorado Judicial Branch’s online Self Help center. Those assets are then released to that heir.

2. Informally

This is how most Colorado estates are administered. There is no court supervision, although there may at attorney assistance. The correct forms must first be filed with the appropriate district court. These forms can also be obtained at an attorney’s office or from the Colorado Judicial Branch’s online Self Help center. Filling out these forms may well be a time to get some legal help, as things can be delayed and frustrating later on if you fail to provide all the necessary information.

When these forms are filed, the decedent’s administrator (personal representative, named in the will) can go ahead with paying bills and taxes and distributing the probate assets according to the decedent’s will. If the decedent died without leaving any will (died intestate), probate assets are distributed according to the laws of intestacy. A probate attorney’s help would be valuable here.

This all might take anything from six months to several years, depending on how complex the estate is. In Colorado, a probate typically takes between seven and twelve months.

3. Supervised

Court supervision is only needed when there is a dispute between people with an interest in the estate.

If you have been named as a decedent’s personal representative, it will be your responsibility to:

· Locate and value all assets

· Give notice to creditors of the death

· Pay debts and taxes for the decedent

· Distribute the rest of the estate to whoever is entitled to it

You will probably need some legal help if the estate is at all complex. Colorado law has reduced such costs. An experienced probate lawyer will be able to file court documents for you, prepare tax returns, and transfer documents and will charge for this at the usually hourly rate. You might well be able to do some or much of this yourself.

Contact the attorneys at Zakhem Atherton LLC to learn more about Colorado law from a professional source.

 

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