Probate. It has a really bad reputation. You’re supposed to avoid it at all costs, right? Not necessarily. You always need a wise estate plan, but if your only concern is avoiding probate, you may end up with a plan that really is not the best one for you.
So what is this dreaded thing called “probate”? Simply put, it is the court proceeding under which the deceased’s debts are paid and their assets are transferred to other people.
If the person left no Will, the Court will use the State’s plan. Bills will be paid, starting with whatever can most efficiently be turned into cash, and any remaining assets will be distributed according to the State’s plan. Essentially, in Colorado, the Court will first look for a spouse and minor children. If there are none surviving, it will then look for parents. If they are not surviving, it will look for siblings. It will continue going out through the family tree in this manner until it finds someone alive in a category, and will divide the remaining assets equally only between all those alive at that level and the surviving descendants of any who have died at that level.
If the person left a Will, the Court will be guided by the Will. Your Will can designate the order in which things should be liquidated in order to pay the bills. Your Will can designate who will get your remaining assets, regardless of their relationship to you. Your Will can also specify how any estate taxes will be paid. Your Will can even be a place to leave last thoughts to loved ones, and to soothe those whom you expect to be upset by your choices.
Your Will may be only one piece of your estate plan. If you have a Trust, items in that Trust are not controlled by your Will. Things in a Trust do not go through probate. Therefore, regardless of the value of the Trust, your estate may qualify for one of the simplified small estate variations of probate.
Colorado has streamlined the probate process, particularly for small estates. There are a variety of different options for getting through the probate process in Colorado. For Frequently Asked Questions regarding Probate, please see our FAQ page.
Whether there is a Will or not, we can help you through the process best suited to your needs. Please contact us to set up a free initial consultation.