Do We Need Probate? What Happens in the Courts After a Loved One Passes?

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Losing a loved one is never easy. To complicate matters, there are a lot of tasks that need to be completed from funeral planning, organizing family members, and the much-dreaded probate process. So what is probate anyway?

Probate is the court process that occurs when someone has passed away. It’s the process to transfer ownership of assets from the person who passed away, to his or her beneficiaries. 

When Do You Need Probate in Colorado?

In Colorado, there are two reasons you go into probate: (1) You own real property (house, land, mineral interests) or (2) you have at least $70,000 in total assets. The probate process starts by appointing a personal representative, and if you have a will, you already decided who that person will be. 

The personal representative has four jobs: 

  1. locate all the decedent’s assets; 
  2. value the assets;
  3. pay any creditors; and 
  4. (4) distribute assets either per the terms of the will if there is one or per the terms of Colorado’s Intestacy Statute. 

The Intestacy Statute is used when someone passes away without a will. Instead of certain items or money going to specific people you want it to go to, your stuff would be distributed based on how Colorado thinks it should be distributed. The Personal Representative runs the show in probate. Once the Personal Representative is appointed, they will get a document called their “letters” which will allow them access to bank accounts and sell property to pay the bills and split things however it needs to go. 

How Long Is Probate in Colorado?

In Colorado, this probate process must last at least six months. That six-month period starts once a Personal Representative is appointed and given those letters. The six-month timeframe is the minimum requirement and could last longer if there are people contesting the will or if there is a problem locating assets. Within the six-months, any potential creditors have to be notified through a newspaper once a week for three weeks that this is their last chance to make any claims against the decedent. Creditors have four months from the first newspaper post to make a claim and if they fail to make a claim in that timeframe, they are barred from ever making a claim. 

Can I Avoid Probate?

Yes! Probate is optional. With a solid estate plan that includes a will, trust, powers of attorney, and other helpful documents, you can establish a plan that avoid this process completely and keeps your family out of court. 

If you need to chat with an attorney about your options, give Althaus Law a call at 720-340-2783. We are here to help!