In an ideal world, we’d all depart this life without leaving any loose ends for our loved ones to deal with. We’d place our assets in trust so they would go directly to loved ones without delay, and we’d give away sentimental items before death.
Unfortunately, things rarely work out this way since most of us need our stuff while we’re still alive and for the most part, we have no idea when death will occur. The best we can do is to create wills, trusts, and other legal devices to pass along our worldly possessions to loved ones when we expire.
The bad news is that some people die with no will or trusts in place to make the process of distributing wealth, assets, and other possessions easier. Whether there is a will or not, however, a person’s estate must go through the probate process following death, and this can be a complex and frustrating process for loved ones, especially anyone left in charge of managing the estate.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a legal process that occurs after death, by which a person’s assets are distributed according to their wishes, if they have a will, or by Colorado statutes if there is no will. Ideally, the decedent will leave behind a will and/or trusts that name beneficiaries and pass along assets. Items held in trust need not go through the probate process, but anything listed in a will must go through this process, along with any items not listed in a will or trusts.
There are two main parts to the probate process. First, someone must be put in charge of managing the deceased person’s estate. This person is called a personal representative. Second, the personal representative must pay all outstanding debts, bills, and taxes to creditors who have made a claim against the estate. When this is complete, remaining wealth and assets (if any) will be distributed to named beneficiaries. In lieu of a will, the court may have to decide who will receive these items. Generally, a spouse is the primary beneficiary, but if there is no spouse, wealth and assets could be passed on to children, extended family members, or others who present some sort of valid claim.
There are several steps that must be followed to comply with the legal probate process. For example, the personal representative of the will must notify beneficiaries of an upcoming probate hearing and post a notice in the local newspaper to inform potential creditors that the decedent has passed away.
For those not familiar with the probate process, such as a family member assigned as the personal representative of a will, this process can be complicated and overwhelming, which is why most personal representatives elect to work with a probate attorney to ensure that the process is completed in keeping with the law. A probate attorney can help to facilitate the probate process, both before death and when the personal representative takes over. Steps for successfully completing probate may include:
If you’re seeking an experienced probate attorney to help you create or execute a will, contact the qualified professionals at Curtis Law Firm today at 720-408-7726 to get started.
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