Can A Small Estate Avoid Probate In Colorado?

June 29, 2021

If you have recently lost a loved one or are wondering if you have a small estate that can avoid probate, our experienced estate planning attorneys can help answer your questions. Contact our compassionate and dedicated legal team at Johnson Law Group today to discuss if this is an option for you. You can reach us by phone at (720) 463-4333 or via text-to-chat at (720) 730-4558.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process that transfers assets from the estate of a deceased person to others as named in their will. If there is no will, assets will pass via Colorado’s intestate succession laws under Colorado Revised Statutes Title 15, Article 11.  The state of Colorado has provided instructions for probate both with a will and without a will.

There are a variety of types of probate in Colorado depending on the size of the estate and whether any assets or estate plans will be contested. In general, most estates will go through a form of probate. A formal probate process would be needed where a will exists but is contested. When the deceased has a will, but it is uncontested an informal probate process may be appropriate. If an estate is small and does not have any real property, it may be possible for the estate to avoid probate entirely.

Probate can be quick or very long, depending on whether anything is contested as well as the size of the estate. The longer an estate remains in probate the greater the potential impact on the estate. Therefore, it is recommended that you reach out to an attorney as early as you may anticipate needing one to preserve the value of the estate once a loved one has passed.

Avoiding Probate Generally

A small estate in Colorado can avoid probate in several ways. If you are curious about how to plan for your small estate upon death our Colorado estate planning attorneys at Johnson Law Group can discuss your options that allow for ease of transfer after death.

The easiest way to avoid probate is to pull your assets into a trust before you pass. By setting up a trust your beneficiaries receive assets immediately after death without having to go to court for processing or approval.

Another way to avoid probate is by assigning beneficiaries to all accounts before death. This can include bank accounts, retirement accounts, and other accounts that are payable upon the deceased of the account holder.

How To Administer a Small Estate in Colorado

Colorado does have laws related to small estates that were intended to make it easier for heirs to inherit the property of the deceased and avoid formal probate. Colorado tries to make administering a small estate relatively easy and it is covered under Colorado Revised Statutes Title 15. If you are a successor, a legal representative of the estate of a person who has passed away, you can file a small estate affidavit and provide it to the person or organization who controls the assets of the estate.

Do I Qualify for a Small Estate Affidavit?

To be able to use a small estate affidavit the following must be true:

  • The estate’s value cannot be more than $70,000 (as of 2021)
  • Ten days have passed since the date of death of the estate owner
  • No personal representative for the estate exists (and is not pending)

If you are unsure of whether you qualify for a small estate affidavit our attorneys can help determine what your options are and can guide you through the process.

Other Ways to Close a Small Estate in the State of Colorado

In addition to a small estate affidavit, there are two other ways that you can close a small estate in the state of Colorado and avoid probate: through summary administration and sworn statement of the personal representative of the estate.

Summary Administrative Procedure

Under Colorado Revised Statute § 15-12-1204, a personal representative may file a verified statement that allows the estate to be closed. The statement must include the following:

  • Assurance that the value of the estate does not exceed the value of the deceased’s personal property.
  • Distribution of the estate to all persons has been completed in its entirety.
  • A copy of the closing statement has been provided to all persons inheriting property as well as creditors and others who have claimed property.

Sworn Statement of the Personal Representative of the Estate

Under Colorado Revised Statue § 15-12-1003, a personal representative can close out an estate by filing a sworn statement and including the following information:

  • Confirmation that the estate has been fully administered including distributions of property and payments, settlements, etc.
  • A copy of this statement must be sent to all those who inherited property through the estate as well as to any creditors or potential claimants.
  • This may be filed as early as six months after the appointment of the personal representative to manage the estate or one year after the date of death for the deceased, whichever comes first.

Why You May Want a Formal Probate

Even if you have a small estate and qualify for avoiding formal probate, you may still want to consider a more formal process if any of the below scenarios apply to you. Our attorneys can help determine what the options available to you are for your specific scenario.

  • You do not know what claims or creditors may come forward: In formal probate, you are required to place a notice for creditors to get in contact with you. This differs from a small estate administration that bypasses probate or informal probate where you are required to contact them yourself.
  • You believe a part of the will (or intestate succession) will be contested: If you think a part of the estate will be contested, or if the identity of any people who will inherit property is contested, you may want to consider a formal probate process.

Contact Our Experienced Colorado Estate Planning Attorneys Today

If you are faced with a potential probate process and do not know where to start, our attorneys at the Johnson Law Group can help. We can help determine if you may qualify for the small estate affidavit, thereby potentially avoiding probate, or whether another probate process is right for you. Contact us today by phone at (720) 463-4333 or via text-to-chat at (720) 730-4558.

Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
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