Most people don’t know what probate is until one of their loved ones passes away, and it’s time to execute their will.

Those who are unfamiliar with estate planning may be confused or even intimidated by the probate process. They want to make sure all loose ends are tied up and that their loved one’s wishes are fulfilled.

It is with this sentiment in mind that we present this simple guide to probate in Colorado.

What is probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process through which property is distributed to designated heirs and beneficiaries as outlined in a deceased person’s will.

What is the process like?

There are several distinct steps that probate follows:

  • First, someone is selected to administer the estate. This person is usually named in the will and is called an executor. If there is no such person named in the will, the court chooses someone to fulfill this role.
  • Next, the court must prove that the will is valid. They use the state’s requirements for signatures, witnesses, and notaries to be sure that the will can be executed.
  • The deceased person’s property is identified and accounted for. The majority of assets can’t be sold or given to beneficiaries until probate is complete.
  • The value of the deceased person’s property is assessed.
  • Any debts or taxes that the deceased person owes are paid out of their estate.
  • The assets that remain are distributed according to the wishes expressed in the will, or according to state law if there is not a will.

Does every estate have to go through probate?

Depending on how the person’s property is owned, their estate may not have to go through probate. Assets that are held in sole ownership are the only assets that wills govern, and that must go through probate.

Assets that are jointly owned like a house or a joint bank account or things like a life insurance policy do not have to go through probate.