Perhaps because it is such an obscure and rarely encountered area of the law, there are many Colorado probate terms with which most people are unfamiliar. This is entirely understandable. Most people, apart from estate planning and probate attorneys, never have to deal with a probate case, and don’t have to have a thorough knowledge of the terms involved.
However, should you find yourself confronted with a situation that involves a probate case, there are several Colorado probate terms you should know. Here are some of the most commonly encountered Colorado probate terms that people have questions about:
Colorado Probate Terms
- Decedent: The legal term for a deceased person whose estate must be managed and disposed of through the probate process.
- Estate: The assets, debts, and other legal interests left behind by a decedent. Similarly, the assets, debts, and other legal interests left behind by a living person who has become incapacitated and requires someone to make decisions on his or her behalf.
- Probate: The legal process established by a state designed to answer the questions that arise after a person dies. Who inherits property? Which debtors get repaid? Who manages the property until the heirs can take their inheritances? All these questions get answered through probate.
- Estate Administration: The practical process of distributing an estate. The administration process is the responsibility of the estate administrator, who operates under the supervision of the probate court.
- Probate Court: A court that hears probate cases. Each state, in addition to having its own set of probate laws, also has courts that hear probate cases.
- Estate Administrator: The person assigned by the probate court to administer an estate. Also known as an executor or personal representative, the administrator does the day-to-day work of the identifying potential heirs, notifying creditors, and managing estate property until it’s time to transfer it to new owners. The probate courts act as a supervisor over the administrator’s actions.
- Letters of Administration: Also known as letters testamentary. These are the legal documents given to the administrator by the probate court that gives the administrator the legal authority to begin the administration process.
- Heirs: The people entitled to receive estate property. A decedent who leaves behind legally valid inheritance choices by creating a last will and testament gets to determine who the legal heirs are. Otherwise, Colorado’s intestacy laws determine who inherits estate property.
- Intestacy: Estates left behind by decedents who do not make inheritance choices are distributed in accordance with pre-existing intestacy laws. These laws determine who inherits property, and usually distributes that property to the decedent’s closest living relatives.
Estate Planning Workshop
Keep in mind that when you put a trust in place and properly fund the trust, your loved ones will avoid going through probate after you pass. For more information on avoiding probate, attend one of our estate planning workshops! Register online or by calling our office at 719-520-1474 or at 303-736-6060.