Cristyn: Colorado-specific Probate Basics. In Colorado, you go to probate when the person owning an interest in real property passes away and has that ownership interest, that’s not passing automatically through joint tendency or beneficiary deed to another person. The other trigger as of 2022 is a $74,000 probate threshold. If you have cash in excess of that without beneficiaries or joint ownership, that triggers probate.

Now that you know what’s going to cause probate, what happens next? The next thing we have to do is get somebody appointed as a personal representative. If there is a will, we’re going to look at the will and see what the person who passed away wanted in terms of their personal representative. If not, we have a statute book full of the priority list. It’s usually a spouse or a child. It’s an adult, at least 21 years of age. That person submits documents to the court, not going to go into depth into what all those are but submits documents to the court to apply to be a personal representative and get the case opened. Depending on what county you’re in, it can take anywhere from several weeks to a month or more. If you have all the documents done properly, it’s definitely going to be quicker.

After the court appoints that personal representative that starts your clock. In Colorado, the clock to require probate be open is six months. We’re looking at 180 days that that probate must be open. Once the person is appointed, we can immediately begin doing all the things that are involved in the state administration. That might be selling a house, transferring the house to a beneficiary. It could be liquidating accounts, dealing with creditors, things along those lines. Even if all the work is done, we cannot close the probate for six months. In some probates, it’s really simple. There’s a lot of things that get done really quick.

At the beginning, we might be sitting around just waiting for that clock to run out, but we cannot close it before six months have passed. Inside that six-month window, one of the other things we’re doing is dealing with any creditors the estate may have had. As personal representative, if you find yourself in that position, you’re going to want to meet with an attorney, so you can go through what all your roles, duties, and responsibilities are. The big ones are going to be finding the assets of the estate, valuing them, paying any creditors, and then distributing the leftover assets based on either the will or what the law says for a person who passed away without a will.