Colorado Attorney R. Brian Daniel
Probate is the legal process pursuant to which a person’s assets are distributed after his or her death. Many people hear the word “Probate” and immediately think of a complicated process that is something to be avoided. This can be true in some, but not all, cases. In Colorado, an informal probate process can often be used. This process helps reduce the expense and length of time required to complete the probate; however, there are still many requirements, deadlines and pitfalls that can create both frustration and delay. Thus, even when going through the informal probate process, a Parker, Colorado Probate Attorney can provide much needed assistance to the Personal Representative (the executor) in getting the estate settled.
In addition to the informal process, some estates must still go through the formal probate process, which can be much more complicated, time consuming and generally always requires legal assistance. If you are in a situation where you may need to deal with the Colorado probate system, it is important to hire a Parker, Colorado Probate Attorney who has a thorough understanding of Colorado’s probate laws.
How does probate work?
If a person dies with a Will, a probate court reviews the Will to determine whether it is valid. Then, any and all of the decedent’s debts are paid, including payments to the tax collecting authorities and to creditors. The remaining assets in the estate are then distributed pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Will. If a person dies without a will (this is known as having died “intestate”), the courts will make decisions regarding distribution of the person’s assets and guardianship of minor children based upon the Intestate Laws of the State of Colorado. Since most people would rather not have the Colorado legislature making the final determination regarding where their assets will be placed after their death, individuals should also consider having a Parker, Colorado Probate and Estate Planning Attorney assist with the preparation of a Will and any Powers of Attorney needed to give effect to the terms and conditions of the Will.
In Colorado, many estates are able to go through the informal probate process. These probate cases are not supervised by the court and are more administrative in nature. The administrator of the estate, known as the Personal Representative, handles the process of paying the decedent’s bills and taxes and distributing the assets from the estate to the heirs in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Will. This is generally a more cost effective form of probate, although an attorney is usually still needed to help with issues such as preparing and filing the legal documents necessary to open the estate, grant the authority to the Personal Representative to act on behalf of the decedent and to actually make payments and distributions pursuant to the Will.
In situations where there is a complex estate or a dispute about the terms and conditions of the Will (or if other issues regarding the estate create discord in the family or in the pool of heirs), the estate would go through the formal probate process and be settled by the courts. This type of probate is generally more expensive and time consuming than an informal probate. Lawyers are usually involved in formal probate cases.
What goes through probate?
Some assets of an estate are referred to as non-probate assets and, therefore, do not go through the probate process. Examples of non-probate assets include:
Assets which do not pass automatically to someone else by the above means are called probate assets and must be distributed to the heirs via the probate process. These include personal belonging as well as property or accounts that were owned and/or held solely in the decedent’s name.
- Entire estates where the collective assets are valued at less than $50,000;
- Life insurance, annuities, retirement plans, and other assets with designated beneficiaries;
- Property or assets registered as joint tenants with rights of survivorship;
- Property or assets in held in trust.
A Parker, Colorado Probate and Estate Planning Attorney can help you whether you are a Personal Representative trying to settle an estate or someone interested in performing some proactive estate planning in order to minimize the number of assets that will have to pass through the probate process.
If you are facing a complicated legal issue, reach out to The Daniel Law Firm. We take great pride in serving clients all over Colorado. Let us discuss with you the best strategy for moving your case forward in both a positive direction and timely manner. Call us today at (303) 951-0233.