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What you need to know about probate in Colorado

When a person dies, probate is the legal process used to dispense of his or her assets.

There are different degrees of probate. Those degrees are dependent on the circumstances and plans that the decedent made (or did not make) prior to his or her death.

What is the difference between an intestate estate and a testate estate?

An intestate estate is when a will does not exist. When a will exists, it is called a testate estate.

What are Colorado's laws regarding intestacy?

Basically, if the deceased does not have a will, one is written for him or her following state laws and guidelines. In Colorado, the intestate property laws dispense property and assets beginning with the closest relatives.

Do wills and intestate estates need to go through probate?

Yes. Both wills and intestate estates must be probated, but if the estate is less than $50,000 and no real property exists, assets may be collected through use of an affidavit instead of a formal court probate process.

In an "uncontested will," an informal process may also be used if there is a representative that can be appointed to oversee the disbursement of property and assets.

When there is a contested will or estate, a formal probate process must take place. This is where attorneys are usually involved and a court hearing(s) takes place. A formal probate process is open no less than six months and can often go on for a long period of time while proof of evidence is gathered and brought before the court. The court will make the final decisions based on the evidence.

Do trusts have to be probated?

No. Trusts can bypass the probate process and any assets or property in the trust can be disbursed by the trustee.

While it may seem okay to just let the state's court system handle your affairs after you pass away, if you have relatives and family, it could put them in a precarious situation. If you do not have any relatives or family, you should still decide where you want your assets to go. There are charitable funds that you may be passionate about; you can name them as benefactors in your will.

Source: Denver Bar Association, "Probate in Colorado," accessed March 20, 2018

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