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What Is Colorado Probate?

Oct. 6, 2022

What is Probate? 

Probate is a legal proceeding in which a deceased person’s affairs are administered. In probate, a court-appointed personal representative may do tasks like gathering and distributing the decedent’s assets, paying debts, and filing taxes. 

Can I Avoid Probate? 

In Colorado, probate is only necessary if a decedent passes away leaving real estate or other assets valued in excess of $74,000 (as of 2022). Additionally, in some cases, probate can be avoided through use of a living trust. 

Is Probate in Colorado Expensive and Slow?

Probate in Colorado is comparatively inexpensive and does not necessarily delay administration of a decedent’s affairs. Court fees to open a probate are less than $300. With an experienced attorney’s assistance, most probates can be opened in a matter of weeks or even days. 

What Assets Must Be Probated? 

Jointly owned assets, and assets “earmarked” by use of a beneficiary designation, POD designation, or TOD designation, need not be probated. By contrast, undesignated individually owned assets must pass through probate. 

Does the Government Take Assets in Probate? 

No—this is a common misconception. If a Decedent passes away with a will, probate assets will be distributed according to the will’s terms. Even when a Decedent passes away without a will (a situation known as “intestacy”), probate assets will be distributed according to Colorado’s default inheritance rules which give inheritance rights to surviving spouses and/or other family members.   

Can I Avoid Taxes by Avoiding Probate? 

No. If a Decedent’s estate is subject to income tax or estate and gift tax liability, such taxes will be payable regardless of whether a probate occurs. 

Does Probate Affect Debts? 

Yes. While probate does not eliminate valid debts, Colorado does provide certain debt protections. For example, Colorado probate rules allow personal representatives to bar creditor’s claims presented later than one year after the Decedent’s death, or even earlier in some circumstances, regardless of the applicable statute of limitations. Additionally, Colorado probate rules authorize personal representatives to refuse to pay (known as “disallowing”) fraudulent or disputed debts. Colorado’s probate rules can be used to benefit estates with debt issues. 

Charles E. Longtine has many years of experience administering probate proceedings in courts throughout Colorado. Contact our office for more information.