If you have just lost a loved one, you have a lot on your mind. On top of the grief and sadness that comes with a loss of someone close to you, it seems that there are a thousand things that need to be taken care of. Notifying family and friends, contacting a funeral home, making memorial and burial arrangements. Eventually, you will look past that to dealing with the estate of the deceased. Is there a will or not? Do estate bills need to be paid? How do you pay them? How do you pay the mortgage of the deceased? How do you distribute the personal property and the assets of the estate? What do you do when family members have different perspectives on these questions? What is probate, and do we need it?
Families often wait too long to talk to someone that can answer these questions. And let’s face it, most people have never dealt with a lawyer, and would frankly like to keep it that way. However, consulting with a knowledgeable probate attorney soon after the death of your loved one can help smooth the process tremendously. That reduces the anxiety, stress, and often family strife, that can arise when a family waits too long before seeking guidance from a capable probate lawyer such as attorney Patterson Weaver. Call us today to determine whether you need the help of an attorney to administer the affairs of your loved one’s estate.
What Estates Must Go Through Probate?
Families often assume that only large or complicated estates need to be probated through the courts. While it’s true that estates with less than $66,000 in assets (as of 2017) and no real property (houses, land, etc.) can be settled using just a Small Estate Affidavit, most other estates do need to go through a court probate process.
For example, if the deceased owned a home that was titled only in their own name, the estate almost always must go through probate to get the authority to transfer the deed to the home to either a family member or another buyer. There are very few exceptions to this rule.
Unfortunately, many families distribute the property themselves and simply never address transferring the home or land in the estate. While many families may be able to get away with this in the short-term, the longer they wait to address the issue the more complicated addressing it properly actually becomes. It’s a much better idea to consult with a qualified probate attorney such as Patterson Weaver quickly after the death of your loved one, to avoid greater expense and complexity later.
What is Probate?
In short, the probate process is the process through which a decedents heirs are notified, debts are settled, assets are consolidated and/or sold, and legal title in property (inheritance) is transferred according to the decedent’s will (or if there is no will, then according to the laws of intestacy in the relevant state). For more information on how probate works, see our page “Estate Administration and Probate.”
What (and Who) is a Personal Representative?
Many states use old-fashioned terminology of personal representatives of “Executor” or “Executrix.” Some states use the term “administrator.” In Colorado, we have adopted the more universal term and modern term of “Personal Representative.” Whichever name for the position one uses, the job is nearly always the same. The personal representative is the person appointed by the courts to administer the estate and has a legal responsibility to do so in an efficient, honest, and timely way.
If a loved on left a will, then very often the person the deceased chose to be personal representative is stated in the will itself. However, if the deceased passed without a will, then the intestate laws of Colorado determine a priority of appointment among relatives. Generally, a spouse has priority, followed by children, etc.
Do I Need an Attorney’s Help?
Yes, you really do. While it is theoretically possible to probate an estate without an attorney, an attorney that is comfortable with the probate process can help you navigate it more quickly, affordably, and with less family drama. If a loved one has passed you should call an experienced probate lawyer such as Patterson Weaver as soon as possible.
Who Pays for Estate Legal Expenses?
In most estate situations, the estate pays the legal expenses associated with administering the estate. Therefore, once a personal representative obtains the legal authority to manage the estate, they can pay their attorney and other legal expenses from the assets of the estate without using personal assets. However, most attorneys do require a retainer up-front to begin work on an estate, and this may be before the personal representative has legal access to estate funds. If this is the case, in most instances a personal representative can reimburse themselves for expenses they properly expended on behalf of the estate once they gain access to the resources of the estate.
You Need Our Help
Call probate and estate attorney Patterson Weaver today for a free consultation regarding your loved one’s estate. Patterson Weaver and his team can usually help you figure out whether you need an attorney’s help or not during a brief phone call. And if so, Patterson Weaver provides free initial consultations where he can answer your questions and discuss with you the particulars of your specific situation. Whether your estate and probate matter is in Colorado Springs (El Paso County), Pueblo, Woodland Park or Cripple Creek (Teller County), Canon City (Fremont County), or in the nearby area, Patterson Weaver Law, LLC is here to help you navigate the probate process quickly and efficiently.
Life happens. We can help. Call us today.