Overview of Essential Inheritance Laws in Colorado

Colorado

If you live in the state of Colorado, or if a family member or loved one has died in the Mile High State, you may need information about the basic laws governing inheritance, probate, and an estate. The Colorado Probate Code establishes the essential elements of law that govern the manner in which a deceased person’s estate is dealt with in Colorado. There are a number of key features of the law that need to be understood.

 

Defining Probate Assets or Probate Property

 

In defining what constitutes probate property, an initial step is defining what are the assets of a person’s estate, according to the inheritance laws in Colorado. Determining what property is part of an estate and subject to probate as defined by the inheritance law is really an exercise in determining what property is not included. Property that will not be included in an estate and subject to the probate process includes:

  • Assets held in a trust
  • Property jointly owned with someone else that has a right of survivorship
  • Life insurance with a designated beneficiary that is not the estate

Estates with a Will

 

The inheritance laws of Colorado distinguish between a person who has died with a last will and testament and one who has not. Simply, when a person dies with a will, the manner in which property is inherited is generally set forth within the confines of that legal instrument. In other words, the last wishes of a person who has died are honored to the extent permitted by law.

 

When a person passes on with a will, that instrument designates what is known as an executor. An executor is a person designated to oversee the affairs of the estate, including ensuring the distribution of assets or property to the heirs as set forth in the will.

 

Estates without a Will

 

In a fair amount of cases in Colorado, a person dies without having written a will or established a trust. Thus, the assets of such an estate are distributed to people as prescribed by Colorado law. The Colorado Probate Code specifically delineates who and how property is to be distributed to family members when an individual dies without a will. This legally is called intestate succession.

 

In this type of situation, the probate court appoints a personal representative to oversee the affairs of the estate when no will was prepared. An administrator undertakes the same types of tasks as does an executor.

 

Types of Probate Processes

 

Colorado has essentially adopted the Uniform Probate Code. This is a legal code that is in use in many states across the country. Pursuant to the Uniform Probate Code, there are three different types of probate processes that are utilized in the event of a person’s death. These are:

  • Affidavit
  • Informal
  • Formal

The affidavit process is utilized when a person passes away, with or without a will, and has left assets behind with a value of $50,000 or less. There must also be no real estate.

 

Through the affidavit process, the property is identified, collected, and distributed to individuals designated in a will or pursuant to the Colorado intestate succession laws. When this is accomplished, an affidavit is filed with the probate court.

 

If an estate is valued at more than $50,000 or is less than that amount but involves real estate, either an informal or formal probate process must be pursued in court. A petition for probate is filed with the court. The presiding judge will undertake an initial review of the estate and make a determination as to whether or not it qualifies for the informal probate process.

 

If an estate qualifies for informal probate, the executor or personal representative is able to address the affairs of the estate with little involvement from the probate court. In many cases, the executor or personal representative will only need to file a document with the court when the affairs of the estate have been addressed advising the court of the conclusion.

 

On the other hand, if a judge determines a formal probate process must be utilized, the court will be more involved in the process of addressing the affairs of the estate. For example, the court will approve the sale of real estate before such a transaction can be undertaken.

 

In the aftermath of the death of a family member, consulting with a qualified attorney is advisable when it comes to ascertaining what will and will not be necessary in regard to Colorado probate, estate, and inheritance laws. The first step is seeking an initial consultation with a Colorado probate and estate lawyer, for which there typically is no cost.

 

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Five Elements of Preparing for a Profitable Estate Sale

Estate Sale

Estate sales can be challenging endeavors. If you are facing the prospect of planning and undertaking an estate sale, you undoubtedly have an array of questions and concerns. In anticipation of an estate sale, these questions and concerns tend to be magnified because you necessarily are needing to pursue this type of project in the aftermath of the death of a family member or other loved.

 

Understanding the unique challenge you face in anticipation of an estate sale, there are some specific elements of the overall process you are well served to better understand. These include a series of five interconnected elements that comprise the process of planning, preparing, and pursuing an estate sale, as are discussed in detail in the Definitive Guide to Plan and Execute a Lucrative Estate Sale.

 

The Probate Process and Authority to Conduct an Estate Sale

 

The preliminary step in mounting an estate sale involves the legalities of the probate process itself. The specific facts and circumstances surrounding the estate of the deceased individual governs how the probate law in a particular state will apply. Detailed attention is paid to the legalities of an estate sale to ensure that you have a clear understanding of what generally is involved.

 

Every state in the U.S. has its own set of probate laws. With that noted, probate laws in nearly all states are quite similar. Indeed, most states have adopted what is known as the Uniform Probate Code, or some derivation of it.

 

As mentioned a moment ago, the probate legalities and process needed to be addressed in advance of planning an estate sale stem from the nature and extent of the deceased person’s estate. The initial consideration in this regard is whether or not a deceased individual had a last will and testament.

 

If a will exists, its terms and conditions generally govern the course of the probate process. There are two primary purpose of a will. First, a will directs how the assets of an estate are to be distributed and who is to receive what. Second, a well designates what is known as an executor. An executor vested with the responsibility and power to carry out the directives in the will. The executor is the person responsible for seeing that a probate sale is carried out, if necessary.

 

If the deceased individual died without a will, the assets of an estate are distributed in the manner set forth by a state’s probate code. The probate court appoints an administrator or personal representative to oversee the affairs of the estate.

 

There are instances in which an informal probate process can be utilized. This occurs in a situation in which an estate has a smaller amount of assets. This type of process necessitates little involvement of the probate court.

 

There are estates that require a formal, or “full-blown,” probate process. In such a situation, the probate court will be more directly involved in the case. For example, there will be at least one court hearing, if not more, before the planning for an estate sale can occur.

 

Strategically Organize Personal Property

 

Once legal niceties have been addressed, personal property of the deceased needs to be organized and categorized to identify what items will be part of an estate sale.

 

The Definitive Guide to Plan and Execute a Lucrative Estate Sale identifies five categories into which a deceased person’s property is to be categorized as part of the process of preparing for an estate sale:

  • Items to keep
  • Items to store
  • Items to donate
  • Items throw away
  • Items to sell

Engage Professional Assistance

 

Beyond retaining a probate attorney, the need may exist to hire other experienced professionals to assist with an estate sale. For example, a professional service may be needed to provide a dumpster and to remove items that are designated for disposal in the organizational process. Depending on the type of estate sale planned, a professional auctioneer may be required. There are even concierges that can assist with the planning, preparation, and execution of an estate sale.

 

Managing the Actual Estate Sale

 

In addition to tending to legal matters and identifying property that will be sold at an estate sale, the sale itself requires thoughtful, coordinated management. This includes everything from promoting an estate sale to providing assistance to those individuals who elect to participate in the estate sale as buyers.

 

Accounting for the Proceeds from an Estate Sale

 

Whether or not a formal probate process is required, there must be an accurate and thorough accounting of estate sales process. In a formally probated case, the court must have this information. In an informal situation, heirs of an estate are entitled to this information. The accounting obligation underscores the need for a complete, comprehensive, and accurate inventory of personal property in the estate.

 

By paying attention to these five elements associate with estate sale planning and execution, the process itself will be smoother. Tending to these matters best ensures that all legalities associated with the probate of an estate are fully met.