Probate describes the legal process used to transfer title to your assets – a home, cabin or vehicle – either through a will or in accordance with the law. All wills (testate estates) need to go through probate, but the complexity and degree of court involvement varies. When there is no will (an intestate estate), probate is also required.
Three main types of probate exist in Colorado. The first consideration is the value and property of the estate. The second is whether there are any disputes, such as one child questioning the validity of the will. In the post, we will discuss how the process can vary.
The main determinate is the value and assets of your estate rather than whether you have a will. A small estate is generally an estate with no real property and personal property less than $50,000.
A devisee (recipient named in a will) or heir (recipient named by law) can attest through an affidavit that he or she is entitled to the asset or plans to distribute it according to the will. There is no need to open a probate action with the court.
If there are no arguments, a testate or intestate estate can go through an informal court process. The court plays a limited role, but still oversees the process to ensure all parties follow the provisions in the will or intestacy laws.
While there may be no disputes at the beginning of a case, questions may come up if it is taking a long time to administer the estate or assets are missing. The court can then step in to address any of these concerns and hold the personal representative responsible.
As the name implies, these are cases where there is a will contest or another significant challenge related to estate administration. Formal probate follows court rules and may require a bench trial. For instance, a judge may need to decide whether the conduct of one child rose to the level of undue influence.
Putting in place an estate plan is the best way to ease the probate process for your loved ones. Ensuring that family members are on the same page and understand your wishes may avoid the need for a formal, costly and draw out probate.