Filed Under (Probate) on 04-19-2012
Probate is a legal process by which your loved one’s estate is officially administered when he or she dies. Think of it as a set of rules or script that governs, or guarantees, that your family member’s money and property are peaceably transferred.
Regardless of whether or not you have a will, most estates in Colorado must go through probate. The exception is a small estate—one with a value (after taxes and bills are paid) of less than $60,000 and no real estate owned by the deceased. If the estate has a will, probate will be much simpler – but it still involves a number of legal steps.
Here’s a quick overview of what’s involved if there’s a will:
Step 1: Initiate the Probate Process
Within ten days of the death, the person named in the will as the executor or personal representative must file (lodge) the will. When you’re ready certain paperwork to set probate in motion and to prove the validity of the will will need to be filed as well. (The initial paperwork to probate an estate can be filed six days after the decedent’s death. You have up to three years to initiate the probate process.) The Will and probate forms must be filed in the District Court (or in Denver, the Probate Court) in the county where the deceased person lived.
Step 2: Appoint the personal representative
The court officially appoints the personal representative by providing a letter of appointment.
Step 3: Identify and inventory the property
The personal representative makes a list of the estate’s assets. Some may be hard to track down, and might include items such as money owed like a final paycheck or retirement account. That inventory must be filed with the court within 90 days of the personal representative’s appointment.
Step 4: Pay the bills
Before heirs can receive their share, all the bills must be paid. Typical bills may include funeral expenses, medical bills, debts and taxes.
Step 5: Distribute the remaining property to heirs
Once assets are valued and debts are paid, the personal representative can distribute property to heirs. Having a will makes this easy; the personal representative hands out money according to the will’s instructions.
Probate can be complex. 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 our website.