Today we will talk about what a Colorado personal representative does to administer the estate he or she has been appointed to handle. Last week, we talked about the fiduciary duties of a personal representative, including duties of loyalty, care and impartiality toward the deceased, heirs and beneficiaries, the court, creditors, government authorities, interested parties, creditors and involved professionals.
But what are the actual tasks that an executor must complete while acting as a fiduciary? Probating an estate involves gathering detailed information, adherence to legal and court requirements, meeting deadlines, completing legal documents and more.
Formal or informal
First, Colorado estates can be probated either informally or formally. Informal administration has less court involvement and can be quicker and cheaper. Generally, interested parties agree about important matters.
Formal probate has heightened court involvement and tends to involve estates where heir and beneficiaries are in more conflict. If no will is found, the probate must be conducted formally.
Opening to closing
The Colorado Bar Association estimates that most Colorado estates can be completely probated in about a year. Broadly, probating an estate — whether according to a will or under the direction of Colorado law if there is no valid will — is a process that usually follows a general path (informal probate has fewer requirements):
- Opening the estate
- Providing official notices to interested parties throughout the probate process
- Conducting an inventory of the decedent’s property and assets
- Paying money allowances to family members as allowed by law
- Preserving and managing assets such as, for example, paying property taxes on real estate, paying maintenance fees on financial accounts or arranging for routine maintenance on a home
- Paying valid bills and claims against the estate, including taxes for the decedent personally and for the estate itself
- Transferring property, money and assets of the estate to proper heirs and beneficiaries
- Closing the estate
To complete these tasks, it is often necessary and smart to engage an attorney for guidance and help completing detailed legal documents, meeting deadlines and explaining the nature of legal duties. A personal representative may also need to consult other professionals like accountants or appraisers.