Denver Probate Lawyer
Probate & Estate Administration in Colorado
Probate is a court procedure for settling the estate of a deceased person. The procedure is designed to insure that creditor claims and taxes are paid and that any remaining assets are transferred to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the deceased person's Will or Trust. If the deceased died without a Will or Trust, he is said to have died "intestate" in which case his estate goes to his closest living relatives.
Under Colorado law a person's estate is subject to probate if he dies owning: (1) titled personal property with an aggregate value of $64,000 or more; or (2) real estate of any value. Property that is not subject to probate includes property held in joint tenancy or in a Trust. While probate in Colorado is less complicated and less expensive than in many states, it typically costs 2-5% of the probate assets and takes a minimum of one year to complete. As a result, many of us opt for an estate plan that circumvents probate.
Types of Probate
Depending on the facts and circumstances, a Probate estate may be handled either formally or
informally, and may be
unsupervised by the court. If the deceased had a Will that is well-drafted and there are no disputes among heirs, the Personal Representative can opt for unsupervised Informal Probate. However, if there are matters in dispute or the whereabouts or identity of an heir is unknown, the estate must go through
Formal Probate, which, as the name implies, is more time-consuming and complicated.
When the probate is handled formally, the Personal Representative must file reports throughout the proceeding and must file a detailed accounting prior to disbursing the funds to the beneficiaries. In contrast the Personal Representative of an unsupervised informal proceeding is not obligated to file reports and does not need to seek court approval for any decisions or actions taken unless the court specifies otherwise.
Often it is wise for the Personal Representative to close the estate formally even if the estate was probated informally. This is because the beneficiaries are required to sign a release when they receive their inheritance waiving any claim that they might have against the estate or the Personal Representative. Otherwise, the Personal Representative remains liable for one year from the date that the estate is closed informally.
Duties of the Personal Representative During Probate
For a deceased resident of Denver County the Probate process is overseen by the Denver Probate Court. For residents of other counties that responsibility lies with a district court judge. In either case the day to day administration of the estate typically is handled by the attorney for the Personal Representative, the person named by the decedent to handle the administration of the estate.
Once the designated Personal Representative has been appointed by the Court, the Personal Representative is responsible for:
- Notifying the heirs and devisees that the estate has been opened
- Publishing a Notice to Creditors advising them as to when and where claims must be filed
- Establishing a bank account for the estate and keeping a ledger of all funds received or disbursed
- Maintaining and managing estate assets
- Processing and paying valid creditor claims
- Inventorying the real property and personal property and having it appraised
- Providing a copy of the inventory and appraisals to the beneficiaries
- Determining which assets should be sold and which should be distributed outright to beneficiaries
- Filing a final income tax return for the deceased
- Filing a Federal Estate Tax Return if the estate exceeded the federal estate tax exemption
- Disbursing the money and property to the beneficiaries
- Closing the estate
If a non-resident of Colorado dies owning real property or titled personal property located in this state, an ancillary proceeding may be required to properly distribute the property to the beneficiaries. In instances where a Personal Representative or Executor has already been appointed in another state, he or she may utilize a simplified process to handle estate matters. However, if no appointment has been made, real property of any amount that is titled in the name of the decedent is subject to probate in Colorado. However, titled personal property valued at less than $64,000 can be distributed in a simplified manner without formal or informal probate.
The James A. Littlepage Law Offices can Assist You with Probate Administration
Our Denver probate lawyer can assist you with all types of estate administration matters, including:
After a beloved family member passes away, the surviving family is expected to handle their loved one's properties and other estates. If your family member has passed away with any real estate in his or her possession, the estate will enter into probate and be administered during this legal process.
The administration of a trust is something that should be done in a careful manner and by a person who is appointed to do so. Having your probate attorney watching over the entire process is strongly encouraged, especially if you want to prevent contention.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
What is the breach of fiduciary duty? When a person who is appointed to be the personal representative of an estate fails to perform his or her duties to the beneficiaries and possible creditors of the estate, this person is considered to be in a breach of his or her duties.
Distribution of Assets
Distributing the assets of an estate may seem simple, but confusion and contests arise very easily. Talk to your attorney right away to ensure that your rights are protected as you distribute the assets and that you can avoid any type of trust or estate litigation.
If a person, whether a beneficiary or a family member, wishes to contest the administration of the estate during the probate process, they must enter into probate litigation. Litigation surrounding probate and estate administration can be extremely complex.
The litigation of a trust can be difficult, especially without the help of an attorney. When a person contests the values in a trust, such as who the assets should be given to or how much each person is entitled to, they must involve a lawyer for trust litigation.
The James A. Littlepage Law Offices provides detailed and personalized probate services including handling Informal, Formal and Ancillary Probate Proceedings. Attorney James Littlepage has provided outstanding service to over 2,500 clients during more than 40 years of experience, and he was recognized in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 with a
FIVE STAR Wealth Manager Award as seen in
ColoradoBiz magazines. To retain his caring and effective representation for your situation,
contact our firm today!