PROBATE LAWS IN COLORADO
The law relating to probate in Colorado is governed by Title 15 "Probate, Trusts, And Fiduciaries" of the Probate Statute. Probate is the process of formally distributing a person's possessions after death has been enormously simplified by the Uniform Probate Code.
The power of a person to leave property by will and the rights of creditors, devisees, and heirs to his property are subject to the restrictions and limitations contained in this code to facilitate the prompt settlement of estates.
Upon the death of a person, his real and personal property devolves to the persons to whom it is devised by his last will. In the absence of testamentary disposition, to his heirs or to those indicated as substitutes for them in cases involving renunciation or other circumstances affecting devolution of intestate estates, subject to exempt property and family allowances, rights of creditors, elective share of the surviving spouse, and administration.
When a person dies, some of their assets will automatically pass by law to certain people. These are called "non -probate" assets. All other assets are called "probate assets. " Probate assets do not pass automatically and must be disposed of under the probate system.
Household and personal items, bank accounts, stocks, automobiles, real estate generally anything that is solely in the decedent's name or doesn't have a title.
After all non-probate assets are determined, the remaining "probate assets" are generally administered in one of three ways:
By Affidavit: If the amount of probate assets in an estate is less than $27,000, an heir can fill out an affidavit (available from Bradford Publishing or an attorney's office). The person holding the assets would then release the assets to the heir without further action.
- Informally: The vast majority of estates in Colorado are administered informally. Informal administration means the estate is not court-supervised. An attorney can have a limited role in these proceedings and a client should discuss with their attorney the amount of help they will need.
Administration of an estate is commenced by filing a number of forms with the appropriate district court. The forms are available from Bradford Publishing or an attorney's office. While the forms are not very complicated, there are a number of traps for the unwary and it may be best to get an attorney's help.
Once the estate is up and running in informal administration, the personal representative (administrator) is free to pay the bills and taxes as they see fit, and then distribute the probate assets either according to the instructions in the will or under the laws of intestacy if the decedent died without a will.
The estate administration can take as little as six months, for a simple estate, and as long as several years. Most estates in Colorado are administered in seven to twelve months.
At the end, an estate may be closed informally by filing with the court a form that states the personal representative has paid all debts and taxes and delivered the property to those entitled to it. Consult with your attorney about other details on administering and closing the estate.
- Supervised: Most estates are not supervised. A supervised administration is needed when there is a dispute among the parties who have an interest in the estate. In this situation, the court has to settle the dispute and attorneys are likely to be involved the entire time.
As per the Colorado a decedent's Will needs to be filed with the district court within ten days of death, even if there will be no estate administration.
A petition for obtaining probate or for the first informal or formal testacy or appointment proceedings after a decedent's death may be filed with the District Court:
- In the county where the decedent had his domicile or his residence at the time of his death; or
If the decedent was not domiciled in nor a resident of this state, in any county where property of the decedent was located at the time of his death.
Appointment of Personal representative
This person is called a "personal representative" because they represent the person of the decedent. A will almost always names a personal representative. If a person doesn't have a will with these instructions, an heir or interested party can file a form asking the court to appoint them to be personal representative.
The personal representative:
- locates and values all the assets,
- gives notice to creditors, pays debts and taxes, and
distributes the balance of the estate to those entitled.
Priority in the appointment of a personal representative
Whether the proceedings are formal or informal, persons who are not disqualified have priority for appointment in the following order:
- The person with priority as determined by a probated will including a person nominated by a power conferred in a will;
- The surviving spouse of the decedent who is a devisee of the decedent;
- Other devisees of the decedent;
- The surviving spouse of the decedent;
- Other heirs of the decedent;
Forty-five days after the death of the decedent, any creditor.
Administrator of the property
To acquire the powers and undertake the duties and liabilities of a personal representative of a decedent, a person is appointed by order of the court or registrar, qualify, and is issued letters. Administration of an estate is commenced by the issuance of letters.
DEMAND FOR NOTICE OF ORDER
Any person desiring notice of any order or filing pertaining to a decedent's estate in which he has a financial or property interest may file a demand for notice with the court at any time after the death of the decedent stating the name of the decedent, the nature of his interest in the estate, and the demandant's address or that of his attorney.
The clerk sends by mail a copy of the demand to the personal representative if one has been appointed. After filing of a demand, no order or filing to which the demand relates is made or accepted without notice to the demandant or his attorney.
The validity of an order which is issued or filing which is accepted without compliance with this requirement shall not be affected by the error, but the petitioner receiving the order or the person making the filing may be liable for any damage caused by the absence of notice. The requirement of notice arising from a demand under this provision may be waived in writing by the demandant and shall cease upon the termination of his interest in the estate.
Costs are reduced under Colorado law, but there are still some costs associated with handling an estate. To begin with, a court docket fee of $91 will be charged upon filing the petition or application for admission of the will to probate.