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A special needs trust can protect certain government benefits. If you need assistance, contact Duncan Legal in Colorado today.

Colorado Probate: Everything You Need to Know

Need assistance with Colorado probate? Duncan Legal, PC, has a knowledgeable attorney ready to help you navigate the complexities. Contact us today!

What Is Probate in Colorado?

Probate in Colorado is a court-supervised process that ensures that a deceased person’s (decedent’s) assets are distributed to the right people. It involves the appointment of a personal representative to administer the decedent’s estate and pay off their outstanding debts before distributing the assets left to those entitled.

The process can be complex and is compulsory (most of the time). Yet few people think about or are even aware of the process until they lose a loved one. During those moments of grief, it is often a shock for such people to discover that the estate of their loved one is subject to many legal restrictions and that they may be unable to assess or utilize their assets without completing the probate process.

If you’re in such a situation, you may need a Probate Lawyer in Centennial, CO, to represent you and navigate the probate process on your behalf. In the meantime, this guide explains how the process works so you have an idea of what to expect during the process. 

You’ll also find this guide useful if you’re seeking ways to spare your loved ones the hassle of going through probate while planning your estate. Please read on to learn more.

When Is Probate Required in Colorado?

Whether or not a decedent’s estate would go through probate depends on the type of assets that make up the estate.

Assets that are jointly owned or designed to pass to specific beneficiaries after the owner’s death can be distributed outside of the probate process. Such assets are called non-probate assets and may include the following:

  • Bank accounts for which the decedent made a payable on death election during their lifetime

  • Assets held in a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship, which allows the surviving owner to assume full ownership upon the death of the other owner

  • An asset that has been transferred to a trust.

All other assets that do not fit the bill are classified as probate assets, and they can only be administered and distributed through the probate process.

 Sometimes, it could be difficult to distinguish between probate and non-probate assets. In such cases where the lines seem blurred, you can seek help from an experienced estate planning attorney in Centennial, Colorado. They can help you classify the assets under consideration and determine the next steps for your case. 

ce or asset, it will be counted against the $2,000 limit.

The Social Security Administration and the state may ignore some exempt assets, such as a primary residence, one car, some types of personal property, and a few other items. Nearly everything else is taken into account while determining whether an individual’s countable assets exceed $2,000.

Determining and protecting the eligibility of your special needs child or family member for government benefits can be complicated. You may want to get estate planning help and guidance from an experienced attorney.

An Overview of the Colorado Probate Process

Upon a person’s death, their family members or the executor of their will would need to approach the court and request to begin the probate process and appoint a personal representative by filing the appropriate probate forms.

This process is known as opening a probate estate. The opening procedure may be informal or formal, depending on the circumstances, as shown below.

The Formal Probate Process

The formal probate opening process is used to resolve complex probate cases where there are disputes that border on issues such as:

  • The authenticity of a will
  • A beneficiary’s right to inherit
  • The appointment of a personal representative.

Before a probate estate can be opened formally, all heirs and beneficiaries must be notified about the probate opening forms and documents filed in court and be given sufficient opportunity to respond. If you’ve received such a notice, you might want to contact a probate attorney immediately. They can review the notice and any documents you might have received and help you determine how to respond. 

Any party who has been so notified can file an objection if they are opposed to the opening or appointment of the personal representative.

The formal probate process could be long and drawn out, leaving a once-happy family splintered. Yet it is almost inevitable, especially if the decedent has a lot of beneficiaries or if there are conflicting interests among their loved ones (such as with a blended family). 

It is the duty of anyone from such a family to take proactive steps while they are alive to ensure that assets that they worked hard to acquire do not cause undue discord among their loved ones. 

The Informal Probate Process

This probate opening approach is typically used in non-contentious estate cases where probate litigation is not expected.

All that is needed here is the filing of the necessary probate forms and documents with the probate court that covers the county where the decedent lived before they died. Once the court clerk confirms that the documents are complete, they will issue an order opening the estate and appoint a personal representative. 

No hearing is required here, which makes the informal probate procedure less expensive and time-consuming than the formal probate.

What Happens After the Probate Estate Is Opened? 

Once the probate estate is opened, the personal representative will commence administration of the estate. Administering the estate includes many activities, including the following:

  • Taking inventory of the decedent’s probate assets and securing them
  • Notifying the decedent’s creditors (if any)
  • Paying and filing federal and state estate tax returns
  • Paying off the decedent’s debts, if any, and distributing the remaining assets to the final beneficiaries.

What Is the Small Estate Probate Process in Colorado?

When a person’s probate assets are minimal, and they do not own any real estate, their assets can be distributed without opening a probate estate in court. All that beneficiaries of such small estates need to do is swear to a small estate affidavit describing the property and its value and showing that they have been entitled to it since the owner’s death.

After signing and notarizing the affidavit, the beneficiary can present it to anyone who has custody of the decedent’s funds or assets, such as a bank where the deceased had an account, along with the death certificate. The person who holds the funds will transfer them to the beneficiaries after that.

This procedure allows a person’s beneficiaries to skip probate entirely. However, the value of the probate assets must be below a specific value ($80,000 for the estates of those who died in 2023) that changes each year.

Is it Possible To Avoid Probate in Colorado?

If you’ve acquired a significant share of assets throughout your lifetime, your estate may not qualify for the small estate procedure when you die. But you can avoid probate by taking proactive steps to plan your estate for this purpose.

Aside from probate avoidance, estate planning offers many advantages and can help you minimize or avoid estate taxes and establish a clear line of succession. That way, there is no doubt among your beneficiaries about who gets what.

When it comes to probate avoidance, the most popular estate planning strategy is converting all or most of your probate assets to non-probate assets. There are several mechanisms to achieve this, including creating a living trust. But the right mechanism would depend on your unique circumstances and goals.

An Estate Planning Attorney in Centennial can assess those goals and help determine the strategy that would offer you the most rewards.  

Contact Duncan Legal, P.C., To Learn More About Colorado Probate 

Probate court proceedings can be long, costly, and difficult to navigate, especially for people who have lost a loved one. But you don’t have to worry about that. 

I can represent you throughout the process, especially if the probate is contested, so you don’t have to worry about the rules and requirements you may encounter. 

If your goal is to spare your loved ones the hassle of going through probate and you’re unsure how to begin, I can help you get started.

With my estate planning experience, I can assess your case and help you determine an appropriate estate planning strategy that meets your needs. I can also help you prepare the relevant estate planning documents, such as trust instruments or powers of attorney, that could make your plans for your estate and beneficiaries legal and enforceable.

Send a message today, and let me help you organize your assets and secure the future of your loved ones.

Flat-fee options are available for wills, trusts and probate:

(303) 394-2358