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What does probate involve if someone dies without a will?

On Behalf of | Oct 2, 2023 | Estate Administration & Probate |

The probate process in Colorado largely depends on the terms that someone includes in their will or other estate planning paperwork. Someone’s testamentary documents can grant assets to specific beneficiaries and provide support for dependent family members, including a guardian for minor children. They will also name a personal representative to manage the estate.

Unfortunately, not every adult with personal resources or dependent family members has the foresight to put together a valid will before passing. Some people die without a will or other estate planning paperwork in place, leaving the family members very concerned about what will happen next. The probate courts will intervene and scenarios where someone does not leave testamentary documents.

State law guides an intestate probate process

The family members will not automatically have the authority to handle estate administration because there won’t be an estate plan designating someone as the personal representative of the estate. Therefore, family members will have to file paperwork with the courts to have someone appointed to that role. They will need to notify the courts of the fact that someone died intestate or without a will.

The probate process is different in a case without testamentary documents. Intestate succession laws in Colorado very clearly explain what will happen to someone’s property should they die without a will. The spouse and children of the deceased will have priority consideration, and other close family members can inherit if someone did not marry or procreate before their passing.

Parents and other family members can receive the assets in someone’s estate in such circumstances. However, just as when someone dies with a will, the estate will need to settle financial obligations like taxes and significant debts before distributing assets to beneficiaries. In the rare scenario that there are no surviving family members to receive someone’s assets, the state of Colorado may eventually take control of their estate.

Families without guidance often need help

Losing a loved one is a challenge, and realizing that they did not plan ahead for that situation can be very stressful. Those who will likely play a role in estate administration may require legal guidance as they navigate the probate courts to ensure that they comply fully with Colorado’s probate and intestate succession laws. Ultimately, learning more about what the process entails is a good starting point for someone with a potential interest in an estate after a loved one dies without a will.