The Pain of Dealing with the Loss of a Loved One

One of the sad realities of life is that, eventually, those closest and dearest to us will pass. When that happens, our grief is compounded by all of the things that must happen to manage the loved one’s affairs, protect their assets, and legally pass on their inheritance. Even though this is the last thing any family member wants to worry about in their time of grief, failure to properly and quickly secure assets and initiate appropriate probate or administration proceedings can lead to increased heartache and damaged families. A qualified and experienced Colorado Springs probate attorney such as Patterson Weaver and his team at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC can help make sure that the process is as smooth and painless as possible.

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What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process under which a person’s estate (assets) is distributed after his or her death. Specifically, the process involves gathering information on the assets of the deceased, creating an inventory, paying funeral and burial expenses, paying creditors, distributing remaining estate assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the will, preparing an accounting of the assets and expenditures, and closing the estate. While that description sounds somewhat clinical and precise, the truth is the administering the estate of a loved one can be a complex process, often involving the court, and too often with disputes and distrust among family members. While it is possible for a family to guide an estate through probate on their own, an experienced estate attorney can be a great help in efficiently administering a decedent’s estate.

Do All Estates Go Through Probate?

No, not all estates. In Colorado, an estate does not have to go through probate if there are less than $64,000 in assets (adjusted for inflation) and there is no real property (meaning land or residence) that needs to be transferred. In such a situation, a personal representative or heir can manage the decedent’s affairs with what’s called a Small Estate Affidavit. Also, an estate in which there was a trust plan and less than $64,000 (adjusted for inflation) in the decedent’s actual name at the time of death may not need to go through probate. Sometimes, a decedent’s assets such as real property, bank accounts, and stock accounts and the like may be held with their surviving spouse or another individual jointly with rights of survivorship. In that situation, most of the decedent’s assets may pass directly to to the surviving spouse or other individual without needing to go through probate. If that is the case, the remaining value of the estate may be less than the $64,000 (adjusted for inflation) that would trigger the need for probate. Whether the estate of your loved one must go through probate or not can sometimes be a complicated question, and you should consult with a Colorado licensed attorney with experience and skill in administering estates.

What Estates Go Through Probate?

Most estates in Colorado either do need to go through probate or do need to be administered by a fiduciary outside of probate including any estate with real property that is in the name decedent of the decedent, not held jointly, and without a beneficiary’s deed. In other words, any estate where a deed is necessary to transfer a property interest. For estates that must go through probate, a variety of factors will determine whether it’s best to probate the estate with a formal or informal probate process.

While many people believe that probate is a scary word and a complicated process that must always be avoided, in Colorado that is not always the case. Colorado has a probate process that allows for informal administration of most estates, which greatly reduces the time and expense required to administer and close the estate. However, even with informal probate, there are still many deadlines and requirements that can become pitfalls that create delay, frustration, and expense. Patterson Weaver Law, LLC can help guide you through this process to manage the deceased’s estate as painlessly and efficiently as possible.

While most probate cases in Colorado can be conducted informally with little court supervision, some estates are required to go through the formal probate process. Typically, the formal process becomes necessary when there is a dispute as to the validity of a will, or a beneficiary alleges that the personal representative is not appropriately handling the estate. Formal probate is far more complicated, expensive, and time-consuming than informal. If you are a personal representative and find yourself in the formal probate process, it is important that you hire a qualified probate lawyer to guide you through the process and to represent you in court.