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’s probate laws are designed to be extremely straightforward and efficient. If you want to know 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 administer 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’s assets to those who are supposed to receive it.
Estates are generally probated in one of three ways:
- Estate by Affidavit: If the probate assets are worth less than $70,000 (for 2021) and the deceased person (often called the “decedent”) did not own any real estate at death, any of the decedent’s successors may complete an affidavit. Upon presenting 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 a qualified Personal Representative is ready to be appointed. The court has a limited role in administering an informally probated estate. However, the court still ensures that any instructions in a decedent’s Will 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 court appoints the Personal Representative, the Personal Representative starts locating and valuing all estate’s assets, handling all potential creditors, filing appropriate tax returns, and paying all allowable debts and taxes. Informal probate can take as little as six months for a straightforward estate. More complex estates can take much longer to probate. Many informally probated estates are concluded within 12 months.
- Formal Probate: Formal probate may be required for several reasons, such as someone contesting a Will or the appointment of the estate’s Personal Representative. 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 probate cases must be open with the court for at least six months, but full administration of the estate may take much longer.