Colorado, like other states, often requires a legal process for overseeing the transfer of assets from a deceased person to the recipients named in their will. Undergoing probate may be a complex part of estate administration.

There are three types of probate in Colorado for estates. First, small estates with bank accounts, cash and other personal property valued under $50,000 and without real estate do not have to undergo a court probate process. An heir or devisee collecting the assets must execute an affidavit swearing that they are entitled to the assets and will assure their distribution to any other entitled heirs or devisees.

Next, there is an informal process governing a valid will, if there is clearly no will, there are no expected will contests and a qualified representative is available for appointment. The court’s role is limited to ensuring that directions in the will or the intestacy statute are followed and providing a legal forum where the heirs or devisees may hold the personal representative responsible.

Finally, a formal probate may be required for a will that is challenged, unclear, invalid or there may be or there are serious challenges to administration concerning issues such as identifying heirs or property title disputes. A court may order that the personal representative obtain approval for every transaction or allow the personal representative to administer the estate without supervision. While informal and formal probate must be open with the court for a least six months, full estate administration may take a longer time.

How assets were owned when the decedent died determines whether probate is required. A will is not required for the distribution for certain assets that are passed to beneficiaries in accordance with the law. These assets include property owned only in the decedent’s name that do not have a beneficiary designation, assets owned jointly such as real property or bank accounts and assets which are passed to individuals with a beneficiary designation such as an IRA or insurance policy.

An attorney can help provide advise on the type of probate is necessary, whether there are valid ways for avoiding probate and resolving issues. Lawyers may also assist with individuals with estate planning to help assure its smooth administration after they die.