PROBATE & ESTATE
We're here to guide you through the intracacies of Colorado's probate proceedings, or to help you plan to avoid probate altogether.
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PROBATE & ESTATE ADMINISTRATION
Probate, technically speaking, is the acceptance of a decedent's will by an appropriate court, upon which the instructions they include may be carried out. The term is often used to express the process by which a decedent's assets are distributed to his or her heirs. In this broader sense, Probate encompasses a process where:
• A will's validity is proven
• The deceased's assets are collected and accounted for
• Debts and taxes are paid, and
• Remaining probate estate assets are distributed to heirs
In Colorado, if an estate's probate assets total a certain amount (an indexed amount that changes annually) or if the deceased person owned real estate of any value, a probate proceeding is required in the decedent's county of residence, or the county in which the real property resides. An estate with assets worth less than the designated threshold and not holding any real estate can be handled with an estate affidavit. In the event of disagreement among interested parties during the probate process, litigation may be necessary. For more information, see Trust & Estate Litigation.
Intestacy refers to the condition of an estate of a person who dies without a will. In addition, a will which governs only part of an estate may be considered intestate. It is a common misconception that the state will receive the estate if there is no will. Intestacy laws in Colorado are designed to transfer your assets to your closest living relative - be it a parent, spouse, child, grandchild, aunt, uncle or cousin (including children of yours born outside of your marriage, children of another born to your wife during your marriage, and children conceived but not yet born before your death).
Many valuable assets do not pass according to your will and aren’t affected by intestate succession laws. These "non-probate" assets pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. Here are some examples:
• Property you’ve transferred to a living trust
• Life insurance proceeds
• Funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account - for which you've designated a beneficiary
• Securities held in a transfer-on-death account
• Payable-on-death bank accounts
• Real estate - for which you've recorded a transfer-on-death or beneficiary deed, or
• Property you own with someone else in joint tenancy