A lot of people like to Google “do I need to open a probate” and in Colorado, the simple Google answer is “yes.” However, probate is not always required.
What is Probate?
First things first, what is probate? Probate is the court process that happens when someone passes away. Probate has to be open for at least six months but can be open longer if it is a contested matter or if there are any funds, such as a tax refund, that is holding up the ability to close the estate account. In general, however, probate involves appointing a personal representative, giving creditors notice, and showing the court that you are abiding by certain statutory rules and deadlines. To learn more about probate – check out our blog here.
Do I Need to Open a Probate?
Now, do you need to open a probate? Great question! There are two things that require a probate to be opened: 1) if the decedent owned real property (house, land, or mineral interests) in his or her individual name; and/or 2) if the decedent had $80,000 or more (as of 2023) in total assets, meaning all the bank accounts combined.
Real Property – If the decedent owned real property in his or her individual name, it is likely that probate is required. However, pulling an ownership report is the best way to see how title was held. Another important thing to note when dealing with probate and real property is whether or not other individuals were quitclaimed onto or off of the property and if the property was held as joint tenants or tenants in common.
$80,000 threshold – As of 2023, probate is required on assets that equal $80,000 or more and do not have a beneficiary named. Beneficiary designations are an important part of estate planning. If an individual is named as a beneficiary on an account, all they have to do is present your death certificate along with a form of government identification, and the money is distributed to them, and the account is closed.
While beneficiary designations can help avoid probate, some complications may arise if beneficiaries are not updated. Some people forget to change their beneficiaries after a major life event, like divorce, marriage, or death. This can lead to your assets being distributed to an ex-spouse or triggering a probate because the beneficiary has predeceased you.
Axis Law Group is Here to Help
There are a lot of complexities when it comes to probate, and it would be a shame to open a probate when one is not needed because once a probate is opened . . . it cannot be closed until the six-month minimum timeframe. Do not waste time and money opening a probate that may not be needed. However, on that same note, do not waste time and money handling a probate without fully understanding what is required as the personal representative. Schedule a probate advisory meeting with one of our experienced probate attorneys to understand if a probate is required and how we can help!