Estate Administration & Probate Life Happens. Let Us Help.

Probate Lawyer in Colorado Springs

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 properly 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.

Schedule your free initial consultation by contacting our firm today.

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 states 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.

Informal 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.

Formal Process

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.

What is a Personal Representative?

A personal representative is the person appointed by the Court to manage the affairs of the estate. It is a personal representative's job to gather and maintain the assets of the estate, open an estate checking account, pay any necessary bills and outstanding debts, (including legal fees and costs of administration) using estate funds, sell any necessary estate assets, obtain needed appraisals and valuations, pay any necessary inheritance taxes (and other taxes such as income if necessary), and eventually to distribute the estate either according to a valid last will (in "testate" estates), or when there is no will (an "intestate" estate), according to the intestate statutes of Colorado.

What Colorado calls personal representatives, many other states call executors or executrices, but it is the same thing. Personal representatives are fiduciaries, which means that they have a legal responsibility to look out not just for their own interests, but also the interests of the estate, other heirs of the decedent, beneficiaries of an estate, creditors, and interested persons. This is true, and perhaps is especially true, even when the personal interest of the personal representative may be very different from the interests of some of the other involved parties. Above all, a personal representative must follow Colorado statutes and must manage the estate in an impartial, transparent, and entirely above-board and legal fashion. Failure to do so can lead to substantial family rifts, probate litigation, and even being sued for breach of fiduciary duty.

Who is the Personal Representative (Executor) of an Estate?

Even though the probate court appoints a personal representative, who has priority for that appointment depends first on whether there was a will, and if so who was nominated as personal representative in the will. If the estate is intestate, meaning the decedent passed without a will, then who has priority of appointment to be personal representative is determined by Colorado statute. However, even if one has priority for appointment, it is possible for other interested persons to challenge that appointment with the court for good cause.

What Assets Go Through Probate?

Not all of a decedent's assets are considered part of the probate estate and subject to the legal process. Common assets not subject to the probate process are referred to as non-probate assets.

Examples of non-probate assets include:

  • Property and assets owned in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship
  • Retirement plans, annuities, life insurance proceeds (and other assets that have designated beneficiaries)
  • Property and assets held in a trust
  • The entire estate when the collective assets total less than $60,000 in value (adjusted for inflation)

Assets not covered above are likely probate assets. Probate assets are distributed to heirs and other beneficiaries via the probate process. Broadly speaking, estate debts are paid first, and the remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries in accordance with the will.

However, if a deceased died without a will, then he or she died “intestate.” When one dies intestate, there are rules established by the Colorado Legislature that dictate how the assets of the estate are distributed. As few people want the State of Colorado deciding how to distribute their life’s work after they pass, it is advisable to hire an attorney to help with an Estate Plan (will, trust, and related documents) that will keep you in control of what happens to your estate after you pass.

Out of State Personal Representative? Patterson Weaver Law, LLC Can Help

Are you the personal representative (executor) of a deceased loved one’s estate, but do not live in Colorado? Colorado Springs probate lawyer Patterson Weaver and his team can help guide you through court processes and administer the estate, often without you even needing to come to Colorado. In Colorado, when representing the personal representative, a probate attorney's attorney-client relationship is with you personally, and not with the estate. That means that our job is to guide and help you undertake duties as a personal representative in as efficient and painless a way as possible.

There are many types of attorneys, but in the realm of probate and estate, many lawyers are not comfortable litigating in the courtroom. That is not the case at Patterson Weaver Law. Our attorneys are experienced and comfortable helping you, whether you have a normal run-of-the-mill estate administration you require help with, or whether you are entangled in a complicated and hotly contested probate litigation or will contest.

As experienced and qualified estate lawyers and estate litigators, we can communicate with you via phone, e-mail, fax, and certified mail, video conferencing, whatever is needed in order to make administering the estate while you are out of state as painless as possible. Most hearings can be conducted without your presence or with you present by telephone. There are exceptions, and sometimes the personal representative’s presence is required by the court. However, our goal is to help you administer the estate effectively from a distance without the need to come to Colorado unless you want to be present.

Contact our team at (719) 215-8049 today to schedule a free consultation to find out how we can help you administer your loved one’s estate.

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