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If you think probate is a bad word, think again

Many people believe that probate should be avoided at all costs. However, this is not true. In fact, some may spend more time and money trying to avoid probate than they would if they had simply followed the normal course of the probate administration process.

Reasons why you may not want to avoid probate include:

  • Liability: Creditors have only a certain amount of time to make claims against the estate. When the probate proceeding is complete, creditor claims are cut off. This protects the heirs and beneficiaries from potential liability in the future.
  • Assurance: Probate helps ensure that the decedent's wishes are carried out correctly. Personal representatives are held accountable for their actions, so others don't have to second-guess the asset distribution amounts.
  • Time: In many cases, the probate process can be completed in a number of months. There are instances, however, where a complicated estate or a contested distribution or estate plan may draw the process out past a year or two.
  • Uncomplicated: Most estates do not need to go through a formal probate process. In fact, many assets pass outside of the probate process, which means only a portion of the estate may need to be probated.

What is the probate process in Colorado?

Probating an estate is simply the process of compiling and transferring estate assets to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries. For estates with values under $50,000, assets may be distributed with a simple affidavit. The court need not be involved.

For estates with higher values, either an informal or a formal process is often necessary.

  • Informal probate: This process may be used when intestacy lines are clear or a valid will exists. There cannot be any complications, and a personal representative must be ready, willing and able to proceed. The court provides minimal oversight of the process.
  • Formal probate: If estate planning documents are complicated, unclear, confusing or contradictory, or if the will or another aspect of the estate administration is contested, a formal probate process is used. In these cases, the court oversees some - if not all - of the aspects of the administration process.

As with any court proceeding or legal filing, it is essential to ensure compliance with every step of the process, both as an appointed representative of the estate or as an heir or beneficiary.

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