Understanding the probate process in Colorado

Losing a close family member or friend can be especially hard for the people who are left behind. Not only are they left to grieve for their loved one, but they are also faced with dividing up any property remaining in the deceased person's name, either in accordance with a will, if any, or applicable state law. This is known as the probate process, and it can either be simple or complicated depending on the circumstances surrounding the case. It may be helpful for people to fully understand the process and what it entails before diving into the act of carrying out the deceased person's wishes.

Types of probate

The full probate process involves the identification of the devisees listed in the will or heirs under the applicable state law; paying off any remaining estate debts; and distributing the property to those entitled to the same. Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding probate. For Colorado, we have three possible probate proceedings:

  • informal probate proceedings;
  • formal probate proceedings; or
  • small estate affidavits.

Informal probate is typically used in situations where the person authorized to act as personal representative is able and willing to serve and 1) the deceased person left an original Will which is uncontested or 2) if no will, there is no question as to who will receive the deceased person's property under Colorado law. Such proceedings are initiated without notice.

Formal probate, on the other hand, are generally used where notice to the interested persons is desired to identify any issues that may be lingering as to the terms or validity of the will, or to the persons entitled to receive the deceased person's property under state law. Additionally, a formal probate may be required if the name and/or address of an interested person is not known.

Appointing an executor

The personal representative of the estate, or the person who is in charge of overseeing the probate process, is either nominated by the deceased person in his or her will or, if no will, specified with priority to serve under state law. A personal representative has the power to sell and/or transfer title the deceased's property. Furthermore, the executor is in charge of settling any debts with creditors, consolidating bank accounts and managing the estate. Ultimately, the personal representative is charged with wrapping up the deceased person's affairs and distributing the deceased person's property to those entitled to the same.

Getting the help you need

Whether you are the personal representative of an estate or you are interested in learning more about the probate process, you may want to speak with an attorney. A lawyer who is familiar with the probate process and how wills work may be extremely helpful in answering any questions you may have regarding the various procedures that are carried out in Colorado.