What is Probate?
Probate is the official way an estate is settled under the supervision of the court. A personal representative, usually a surviving spouse or an adult child of the deceased, is appointed by the court if there is no Will, or nominated by the deceased person’s Will.
In probate, the personal representative distributes the decedent’s personal property and assets according to the Will. Or if the deceased did not leave a Will, their assets are distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws.
Colorado has three levels of probate, including:
- Small Estates: If an estate (those with and without wills) is worth $70,000 or less and owns no real property, then the heirs may collect assets by signing a Small Estate affidavit, allowing them to avoid probate court altogether.
- Informal Probate: Most estates worth more than $70,000 go through informal probate proceedings. In this case, there is (i) a clear, valid Will; (ii) no contest over the Will; and (iii) a personal representative has been clearly identified. Forms are filed and approved by the court, but there is no court supervision over the distribution of the estate.
- Formal Probate: This is a court proceeding where a judge must approve actions taken by the personal representative, such as distributing assets or selling real estate. This is the most common form when there are disputes over the Will.