Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies. It governs how bills are paid and how friends and relatives inherit property and money. Probate isn’t fast – it can last six months to a year, but it isn’t necessarily bewildering. A lot depends on the size and complexity of the deceased person’s estate. You may not need a lawyer to go through probate; instead, you can do it yourself.
There are specific Probate forms that the personal representative will need to file with the court in the county where the decedent lived.
How does the probate process work?
Probate can be pretty simple. After your family member dies, the person named in the will as personal representative (executor) files papers in the appropriate court. In most counties, the probate case is filed with the clerk of the district court. The one exception is in the City and County of Denver, where the case should be filed with the clerk of the Denver Probate Court. The personal representative proves that the will is valid and presents the county with a list of the deceased person’s property and debts, and a list of who inherits what’s left.
Then, the personal representative must find, take possession of and manage the deceased person’s assets, which can take some time. If there are a lot of unpaid bills, the personal representative may need to sell real estate or stocks and bonds to pay off those debts.
Eventually, the court will grant the personal representative permission to settle the estate and divide the remainder among inheritors, and property will be transferred to beneficiaries.
How long does probate take?
Probate can take at least six months and up to a year.
Do we have to go through probate?
It depends on how much the deceased’s property and estate are worth.
If the estate includes any real estate holdings then it will have to go through the probate process. However, if there’s no real estate involved, and, after bills are paid, the estate is worth $60,000 or less, there is a simpler process. For these small estates, you fill out the Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit form (also known as a Small Estate Affidavit). In this form, you swear that that you are a successor to the decedent and you list other successors who are entitled to a percentage of the decedent’s money or tangible personal property. You can then distribute the personal property in accordance with the Affidavit.
For more information, get Bradford’s helpful booklet, “Guide to Probate in Colorado.” Bradford also has all the forms needed to probate and estate, in printed form or downloaded from the website.