Probate is the court-supervised process of transferring the assets of someone who has died to those persons who are entitled to the assets next. Intimidating? Yes, it can be. But, often it is just a matter of following some standard procedures and filing certain required forms. There are three ways to probate an estate in Colorado. The value and circumstances of the estate determine which procedure is required.
1. Small Estates. Regardless of whether there is, or is not a will, if the value of all property—after any encumbrances and liens are deducted—is less than $60,000 and there is no real estate in the name of the deceased, an estate may qualify as a small estate. If an estate qualifies as a small estate, no probate is required, and the property can be transferred by way of “Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit.” This procedure requires an heir to swear that he or she is entitled to some or all of the property and will distribute any other property to the entitled heirs or creditors.
2. Informal Probate. In Colorado, informal probate means that the court has a limited role in administration of the estate. Generally, but not always, this is when there is a valid will and it is clear who will inherit, there is a qualified personal representative ready to serve, and no significant contests are expected.
3. Formal Probate. A formal probate may be needed when the will is contested or unclear, there is no will and who inherits is unclear, an heir cannot be found, or there are significant property disputes. Formal probate requires more court supervision where each transaction may require court approval.
A probate may start informally but later have a formal hearing to determine disputed issues. Likewise, a case may be started formally but allow some steps to be taken informally with less court supervision. Bradford Publishing offers forms and guides to proceed through the small estate process and informal probate, but to file a formal probate, an attorney should be consulted.
For more information on the probate process, see the Bradford booklet “Guide to Probate in Colorado.”