Probate is the legal process that is used to transfer title of assets from the decedent to those people, the beneficiaries, named in the will (if the decedent had signed a will before their death) or the decedent's heirs (if the decedent had not signed a will or there was never a will drafted before the death). All wills and intestate estates (those without a will)must go through the probate court process. The degree of court involvement depends upon how the will was written and how state the estate is now in. By this I mean, what are the assets, is there an ongoing business, how do the family members conduct themselves, etc.
In Colorado there are three types of probates.
1. Small Estates (under $64,000 in non-real estate assets and no real property or real property held in joint tenancy and/or by beneficiary deed).
Whether or not you have a will when you die, if you have $64,000 or less in personal property (includes bank accounts and cash) and no real property or property held in joint tenancy or by beneficiary deed, , your devisees or heirs may collect your assets by using an affidavit and not have to file a petition with the probate court. This process requires a party to collect the assets and to swear they are entitled to it and will distribute it to any other entitled devisees or heirs.
2. Uncontested Estates (Informal filing).
The informal process is generally allowed when there is a valid will, no contests are expected (i.e, family members that are fighting over the estate assets), and there is a qualified personal representative (either named in the will or appointed by law, i.e., a brother or sister, mom or dad) ready to be appointed. The court has a limited role in the probate process but is available should the need arise due to issues surrounding the directions in the will and to provides a venue for the family members to hold the personal representative accountable.
3. Contested estates and invalid or questionable wills ( Formal filing).
A formal probate may be required for several reasons, including when a will is contested (i.e., family members believe it is not a valid or most current will) it is unclear, invalid, or when there are apparent or actual significant challenges will occur during the process. The court may supervisor the entire process so that all parties believe that the most fair and decent actions, which best reflect the wishes of the decedent, occurs.
As we tell each and every probate client that retains us, weddings and funerals can either bring out the best in people or the worst. We have assisted families that were on the verge of splitting apart due to internal fights and misinformation over a loved one's death. We have experience and compassion for people in these types of matters. We will walk you through the process in the most efficient and complete way possible.