As the executor of a will, you're responisbile for distributing the deceased person's property according to his or her will. You'll need to arrange for the payment of debts and expenses, and these responsibilities apply even if a person dies without a will.
Feeling overwhelmed when you were named as an executor of a will is okay. Don’t rush into settling all the matters yourself, especially in an emotionally fragile state. Before you make any big decisions about the estate, take the time to familiarize yourself with the basic legal procedures involved.
Three Recognized Types of Probate in Colorado
According to Colorado laws, all wills and intestate estates (those without a will) must be probated. The complexity of legal procedures varies depending on the type of probate in question:
Small estates (under $50,000 with no real estate property) may be collected by the devisees by using an affidavit without opening a probate action in court. Most often this is the case when there’s one heir involved and/or other devisees or heirs make no estate claims.
Uncontested estate (informal probate) assumes that there is a valid will in place, a personal representative is already appointed and no contests are expected to be made by other devisees. These probates could be settled with minimal court involvement, though certain legal procedures must be followed to ensure the directions of the will.
Contested estates or questionable wills will require a formal probate in the following reasons:
- The will is unclear or invalid.
- The will is contested.
- There are apparent challenges in place such as property title disputes or identifying the heirs.
Formal and informal probate law procedures have to be open with the court for at least 6 months, though the full administration may take longer.
Key Stages of The Probate Process
As an executor of the will, you will be requested to complete the following steps during the probate process (both formal and informal):
- Obtain death certificates and file the will in the local probate court.
- Locate all the deceased person's assets and manage them until the final distribution decision is made by the court.
- Make financial decisions on the behalf of the deceased concerning the estate if there are expenses or creditor claims to be covered.
- Handle certain day-to-days of the deceased person, which may include notifying banks and governmental entities about their death, terminating leases or credit cards and settling other small matters.
- Decide whether your case requires formal or informal court proceedings. Consulting with a Probate Attorney in Denver is highly advisable at this point.
- Set up a dedicated estate bank account. All the estate funds should be transferred there to pay the decedent’s debts and recurring payments such as mortgage or utility bills.
- Pay state and federal estate taxes if any.
- File the decedent’s final income tax returns with the IRS.
Depending on the type of estate in question, the procedures may differ as well as the level of the court involvement.
When It’s Better To Hire a Probate Attorney
When you are in grief, dealing with the legal procedures and day-to-day routines on behalf of the departed can be overwhelming.
A probate attorney will take over the majority of proceedings of your shoulders and additionally advice on the best protection on the estate. Dealing with the probate court can be cumbersome and frustrating as the court procedure times are often extended.
Hiring a probate attorney is essential when the estate contains non-common assets such as a business or commercial relate estate as you will be required to make important decisions on ongoing handling. A professional advice, in this case, is essential to ensure that you are making the right judgments without any emotions involved.
Handling debt within the estates is another tricky matter. If the initial investigations have shown that there is not enough financials to pay the current debts and taxes due, you should consult with an attorney before handling any bills. The state laws give certain creditors a priority over others, and you may be patching the wrong accounts at your own expense.
Our legal team has extensive experience with estate willing and untangling contested wills. If you need professional advice on your case, do get in touch with one our probate attorneys in Denver via email or phone.