What is probate?
Probate is the court process which oversees the transfer of property and payment of debts of someone who has died. In Colorado, we have some very simple processes for estates with very little value and for estates that have no land or houses. It can be a fairly simple process. If there are heirs or beneficiaries who contest some aspect of the Will or if there is no Will, it can be a very tedious process. The end result, through any version, is the payment of the debts owed by the deceased and the change of legal ownership of any remaining assets.
Why should I worry about avoiding it?
It can become costly if it is likely that there will be some fighting. It can be time consuming, as you have to fill out several papers for the Court, including such things as a detailed inventory of everything the person owned and a detailed list of every debt they owed. It can become a proceeding where assets are used up just taking care of(administering) the estate.
Can it help me?
Yes. It can limit your liability as the personal representative, because everything you do is approved by the Court. Also, it shortens the time limit for creditors to come forward and make claims against the estate.
Do I need an attorney to go through probate?
Not necessarily, but you should consult one before deciding. There are no fixed rules of thumb to offer about when to get an attorney or not. If it is a small estate, and can be done with an Affidavit, you probably will not need an attorney, or will just need a little assistance. If it is a simple estate and you are comfortable with forms and understand the instructions offered on the Judicial website, then you probably do not need an attorney. Otherwise, you probably should get an attorney.