How Long Do You Have to File Probate After Death in Colorado?

You’ve just lost a loved one, and you’re grieving. On top of that, you’re faced with the task of handling their estate.

You may not know where to begin or how long you have to start the process.

Generally, in Colorado, you have up to three years to file probate after death, but it’s best to start sooner. After this time, you may only file probate under very limited circumstances.

The probate process can take many months, even years, depending on various factors. Delaying or failing to file can further complicate things.

But don’t worry—in this blog, our estate planning attorneys will explain the probate process, your responsibilities, and how you can get help expediting the process. Let’s navigate this journey together, ensuring your loved one’s legacy is handled with the respect it deserves.

The Probate Process in Colorado

The probate process is where the court oversees the administration of a deceased person’s estate. It’s a necessary step to settle outstanding debts, distribute assets to beneficiaries, and transfer property ownership.

Probate is initiated by filing a petition with the appropriate court. If you’re wondering, ‘How much time do I have to file probate after the death of a loved one?’, it depends on the type of estate.

For instance, if the decedent has a will or list of instructions detailing their final wishes, this must be submitted to the probate court within ten days of their passing. Probate proceedings, both with or without a will, must generally be initiated within three years of the decedent’s death (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-12-108).

The probate process can be complex and time-consuming. Initiating the Colorado probate process as soon as possible is advisable to avoid potential complications or delays.

Executor and Administrator Responsibilities

As the executor or administrator, you have numerous duties to fulfill. This includes:

  • Locating and Securing Assets: The executor or administrator must identify and safeguard all assets of the deceased, including bank accounts, real estate, investments, and personal property.
  • Notifying Creditors and Managing Debts: Notify creditors of the death and manage the payment of outstanding debts and liabilities from the estate’s assets.
  • Inventory and Appraisal: Prepare an inventory and appraisal of the deceased’s assets, which may be required by the court.
  • Probate Court Filings: File the necessary documents with the probate court, including the will (if there is one) and other legal paperwork required for the probate process.
  • Managing and Distributing Assets: Distribute assets to beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or state law if there is no will. This includes transferring titles, selling property, and ensuring the fair distribution of assets.
  • Tax Compliance: Handle the deceased’s tax obligations, including filing final income tax returns and, if applicable, estate tax returns.
  • Accounting and Record-Keeping: Maintain accurate records of all financial transactions related to the estate, including income, expenses, and distributions to beneficiaries.
  • Resolving Disputes: Address and resolve any disputes or challenges to the will or the administration of the estate.
  • Court Reporting: Provide regular reports to the probate court as required and seek court approval for certain actions.
  • Closing the Estate: After all debts are paid, assets are distributed, and legal requirements are met, petition the court to close the estate.
  • Communication with Beneficiaries: Keep beneficiaries informed about the progress of the estate administration and address their questions or concerns.
  • Legal Compliance: Ensure that all actions taken during the estate administration are in compliance with state law and court orders.

These duties require careful attention to detail and a thorough understanding of the legal and financial aspects of estate management.

You don’t have to be overwhelmed by the task at hand—a probate lawyer can help you manage your tasks and ensure a smooth process.

Filing Probate After Death

The moment a person dies, the clock starts ticking for you to file a petition for probate. To file the probate, you’ll need the original will (if it exists) and a certified copy of the death certificate. Within a few months, you’ll need a complete inventory of the deceased’s property, so you’ll want to start creating that right away.. The date of death is critical as it determines the valuation of assets.

Despite the lack of a strict deadline in Colorado, you’re better off filing probate without delay to avoid running into legal hiccups. When a person passes away, the legal process of settling their matters commences, and it’s crucial to act swiftly. The sooner you initiate it, the smoother the process will be.

To file the probate, you should:

  • Obtain a copy of the deceased’s will and death certificate and submit it to the probate court within ten days.
  • File a petition for probate with the appropriate Colorado probate court.
  • Begin preparing a comprehensive list of the deceased’s assets and debts. While it may seem overwhelming, it’s a crucial step in the probate process.

If you need help administering your loved one’s estate and managing your duties as executor, contact our probate lawyers for a consultation.

What Happens if You Don’t File Probate?

If you don’t file probate, your loved one’s assets could be left in limbo. To prevent this, it’s important to start probate immediately after the decedent’s death.

When you don’t file probate on time, the court may assign an administrator who may not be your choice, or you could run out of time and be unable to do so. You’re then left out of important decisions made about the estate. Filing probate gives you control over the distribution of your loved one’s assets.

How Long Does the Probate Process Take?

The probate process isn’t a quick one. It generally takes 9 to 24 months, with the average being around 12 months, but can extend up to 2 years or more. Factors like the size of the estate, disputes, and court delays can lengthen the process.

When a person dies without a will, it often complicates the probate timeline. In such cases, a probate petition has to be filed, introducing the formal probate process. This process can be lengthy and may hinder the swift settling of the estate.

The complexity of the estate also plays a significant role in the probate timeline. If the deceased owned properties in different states or had significant debts, it could extend the process. It’s crucial to understand that each estate is unique, and the probate timeline varies accordingly.

Lastly, if beneficiaries contest the will or there are claims against the estate, it can lengthen the process. Delays may also occur if the executor is inexperienced or unresponsive.

Expedite the Probate Process With Hammond Law Group

In Colorado, probate filing isn’t a race against the clock, but timely action is crucial. Legal requirements, estate size, and other factors can impact the timeline. Delaying probate filing can have significant implications.

At Hammond Law Group, we’ll help you overcome probate delays and streamline the process, ensuring a smoother transition for everyone involved. We’ll explain the Colorado probate process, ensure you file probate on time, and manage your executor duties.

You won’t be navigating this journey alone. You can place your trust in Hammond Law Group to wrap up your loved one’s estate efficiently and compassionately.

Contact us today for a consultation.

Author Bio

Catherine Hammond is the CEO and founder of Hammond Law Group, a Colorado-based estate planning law firm she founded in 2005. With a strong focus on protecting families from the legal consequences of disability and death, she creates comprehensive estate plans that minimize taxes, costs, and government interference.

A native of Denver, Catherine completed her undergraduate studies at Coe College in Iowa, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver College of Law in 1993, concentrating on estate planning, tax, and mediation. Catherine is a member of various professional organizations, including WealthCounsel, ElderCounsel, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Colorado Springs Estate Planning Council, and the Purposeful Planning Institute. Beyond her legal expertise, Catherine provides transformational coaching to support clients and their families through life transitions.

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