What is Probate?
One area of expertise for an estate planning attorney is probate, which is the legal process involving the administration of a deceased person’s will or the estate of a deceased person without a will (known as dying intestate). Probate is carried out within a Probate Court and varies by state. In Colorado, probate is divided into three types:
- Small estates worth under $50,000 with no real property;
- Informal probate for uncontested estates; and
- Formal probate for estates that are contested and/or have invalid or questionable wills.
The specific tasks that are carried out in the probate process include:
- Declaring a will valid or invalid;
- Transferring title of property from the deceased to an heir or beneficiary;
- Giving an executor of an estate legal standing to handle the estate’s business;
- Paying off liabilities of the deceased’s estate;
- Distributing the assets of the estate.
Often the purpose of a comprehensive estate plan is to help avoid the costs and time of a complex probate process, but probate cannot be completely avoided with a will. All wills must be probated in Colorado if you own real estate or have more than $50,000 of property without beneficiary designations, but the involvement of the probate court varies by the complexity and size of the estate.
There are ways to avoid having your family going through probate, which helps keep the administration process shorter and less expensive. Some choose to use a revocable living trust instead of a will to dispose of their property upon death. Assets transferred to the revocable living trust before a person’s death are not subject to probate and can be distributed upon the their death without probate. However, the trust only controls assets which have been transferred to the trust during the deceased’s lifetime and, therefore, a person should still have a will to dispose of any assets which—either intentionally or inadvertently—are left out of the trust.
While probate can be costly and complex, an estate plan can significantly simplify and reduce the costs of this process.
Hammond Law Group, LLC – Avoiding Probate in Colorado Springs, CO