Whether you’re currently dealing with the legal matters that follow the death of a loved one or if you just want to make sure that when you’re gone your family can take care of the legal matters of your estate in your absence, you really need to have at least a basic understanding of Colorado probate laws. Having such information and preparing for the inevitable ahead of time will save you and your family from unnecessary stress.

What Colorado Probate Law Is

Probate law is essentially the process of, or the way a person’s estate is handled when that person passes away. For legal purposes, when a person passes away they are referred to as a decedent. A decedent’s estate is basically everything that they have had full ownership of. This can include (but is not limited to) real estate, furniture, automobiles, assets in bank accounts and insurance policies. As part of the estate all these things are considered property assets.

Colorado probate laws involve the process flow of two things: First, making sure the decedent’s creditors are paid what they are owed and second, making sure that the decedent’s property assets are distributed to the decedent’s “heirs,” or descendants.

The decedent most like will have had a will written up in advance by an attorney or paralegal and that document will likely state how their assets are to be distributed to the heirs or descendants. You do not necessarily have to have your assets distributed to family members; anyone of a person’s choosing can be heirs but most of the time it is family members.

Colorado Probate Laws in Action

When someone passes away, a person acting as the executor of the estate (usually an attorney or a relative) files a petition or a legal request in a court to have the estate “opened” and have a judge formally recognize the person who is the executor (or executrix) of the estate. There is no difference between the two titles, other than one is male and the other female.

For the sake of simplicity we’ll use the term executor here. The executor is designated ahead of time in the decedent’s will. Colorado probate laws designate that the next step is for the executor to have a Notice of Creditors printed in a local newspaper (usually in the classified ad section). A Notice of Administration is then sent to creditors. This advises them that the decedent’s accounts are now in probate and the creditors have a specific amount of time to file a claim in court against the estate if they are owed money.

One of the protective aspects of Colorado probate laws are if the decedent owes a lot of money and has no assets to speak of that can be sold for cash (if there is no money to pay the creditors), the descendants and family members of the decedent are protected from legal action by the creditors and the creditors cannot sue them for the money owed.

Once creditors’ claims have been satisfied either by the executor paying them from the decedent’s assets and any other assets have been distributed to the decedent’s heirs in accordance to their will, the executor files a petition before a judge in court asking for the estate to be discharged. Assuming that is done so without any conflicting legal issues, at that point the estate is officially closed.

Having an Attorney Is Essential

The way they are described here Colorado probate laws may sound simple and sometimes it can be relative simple. But the act of the executor carrying out the act of settling the decedent’s estate is not always so easy. The executor must follow certain laws pertaining to settling one’s estate. And a conflict can arise if the decedent’s will is not in line with probate law.

For example: A decedent may state in their will that they wish for none of their bills to be paid and instead have all their assets liquidated or transferred to their heirs. The executor is in a bind in this situation because they are sworn by law to adhere to the personal wishes of the decedent and Colorado probate advance at the same time. This is an example of why it is essential to have an attorney either act as the executor or at least be retained to act as the legal counsel to the executor in court.