The legal process for transferring ownership of a deceased person’s assets is called probate. When there is a Will, the probate is called a testate estate. When there is no Will, the probate is called an intestate estate. The probate process has not always earned a good reputation. Fortunately, Colorado probate is designed to be an extremely straightforward, efficient process. If you want to know a little more about Colorado probate, please read the information below.
When an estate is probated, a “personal representative” (also known as an “executor”) is appointed to oversee the administration of the estate. Being a personal representative is not an easy job. A personal representative locates and values all estate assets, gives notice to creditors, pays all allowable debts and taxes, files the appropriate tax returns, resolves any disputes, and eventually distributes the balance of the estate to those who are supposed to receive it. If a person does not have a Will, Colorado law allows certain people to file a form and request that they be appointed the personal representative.
Estates are generally probated in one of three ways:
- Estate by Affidavit: If the probate assets are worth less than $66,000 (for 2017) and the decedent did not own any real estate at death, any successor of the decedent can complete an affidavit. Upon presentation of the affidavit, the person or entity (for example, a bank) holding the decedent’s assets must release the assets to the successor without further action.
- Informal Probate: Most estates in Colorado are administered informally. Informal probate is generally allowed when there is a valid Will, no challenges are expected, and there is a qualified personal representative who is ready to be appointed. The court has a limited role in administering an informally probated estate, but the court still ensures that the Will’s instructions are followed and that the personal representative is held accountable. In an informal probate, estate administration begins by filing several pleadings with the appropriate district court. Once the estate is opened and the personal representative is appointed by the court, the personal representative starts locating and valuing all estate assets, handling all creditors, filing appropriate tax returns, and paying all allowable debts and taxes. An informal probate can take as little as six months for a very simple estate. More complex estates can take much longer to probate. In Colorado, most informal estates are administered in 12 months.
- Formal Probate: Formal probate may be required for several reasons, including when a Will is contested, invalid, ambiguous, or when there are apparent or actual challenges during the estate administration. The court may require that the personal representative receive approval for every transaction in the estate, or it may allow the personal representative to administer the estate with minimum supervision. Both informal and formal probates must be open with the court for at least six months, but full administration of the estate may take much longer.