Colorado probate forms are a useful and necessary tool which are used to start, maintain, and settle the probate process within the Colorado Judicial Branch. The numerous forms are used to accomplish various tasks throughout the estate administration process. Which Colorado court forms will be necessary for you to use depends on the decedent's estate and what happens. For example, beginning a case requires a petition, but your probate case will require numerous additional forms throughout the process to properly settle the estate.
This article contains answers to basic questions about Colorado probate forms. Our hope is that you will find the answers to your questions. However, this information is not a substitute for legal advice. Ball Morse Lowe provides free consultations with our probate attorneys. If you have questions or if you are ready to schedule your free consultation with an experienced probate attorney, click here.
Do I Need to File Probate in Colorado?
Beginning a case with the Denver probate court (or the probate court in the county where the decedent was a resident at the time of their death) is almost always necessary. The purpose of the probate procedure is to legally transfer the property of the decedent's estate to their heirs. Just how involved the Colorado Judicial Branch will be in the probate procedure depends on the complexity of the estate. The estate administration process depends on whether it qualifies as a small estate, whether it qualifies for informal probate, or whether it must go through the formal probate process. Another factor is whether the decedent left a will (known as a testate estate) or whether the decedent did not leave a will (known as an intestate estate).
- With a small estate, the Colorado Judicial Branch is the least involved. A small estate is defined as an estate worth less than $70,000 (as of 2020). There is also no real property. A small estate affidavit is used and the heirs are not required to go through the probate court for the estate administration process. Probate instructions do require that the devisee or heir collect only the assets they are entitled to receive and distribute other assets to entitled devisees or heirs.
- With informal probate, there must either be the ability to probate a will with little or no complications, or probate without a will if there is a clear lineage involved. For example, the decedent's estate would clearly go to their spouse and children. Informal probate is also only used if there is no expectation of some kind of contest of the will or a contest of how the estate will be divided among the heirs or the devisees. During informal probate, the Denver Probate Court is involved, but its role is limited.
- With formal probate, estate administration is generally more complex. This may occur for practically any reason. The will could be contested; the estate could be quite complex; maybe there is no will and there is no clear lineage; there could be a vast assortment of debts associated with the estate; or the probate could have numerous other concerns or issues associated with it.
How Do I Open Probate in Colorado?
Beginning a case with the Denver Probate Court starts by completing certain probate forms. Colorado probate forms can be found on the Colorado Judicial Branch's website. To open the decedent's estate with the court, first, download JDF 709 which is titled “Instructions to Set a Hearing and to Complete a Notice of Hearing.” You will also need either JDF 906 “Instructions for Probate with a Will” or JDF 907 “Instructions for Probate without a Will.”
If the decedent's estate qualifies as a small estate or for informal probate, you will also notice that there are forms available to officially open those types of probate matters as well.
Additionally, the Denver Probate Court offers a Pro Se Resource Center for further assistance. It is staffed by volunteer attorneys. The Colorado Bar Association also provides helpful information about estate administration, as well.
How Do You Probate a Will in Colorado?
To probate a will in Colorado, first, you must determine whether the decedent's estate is considered a small estate, if it qualifies for informal probate, or if formal probate is required. If you're unsure, Ball Morse Lowe is here to help. We provide free consultations. From a general perspective, the will is presented to the Denver Probate Court after the probate case has been opened. The assigned judge has the responsibility of reviewing the will as well as the petition to ensure that everything appears to be in order. Wills must comply with state law. The estate administration process begins once the court determines that the will was properly drafted and executed, there does not appear to the court that there is anything fraudulent in nature related to the will, and there are no objections related to the will.
The estate administration process first begins with the appointment of the personal administrator or executor, who is most often designated in the will. The person named may accept or reject this appointment. If they accept, it is their responsibility to follow probate instructions throughout the estate administration process. This includes, and is not limited to, distributing the decedent's assets to heirs and devisees after debts and taxes of the estate have been paid. However, to protect titles and deeds of the estate that are passed on, determination of heirship must also take place. This is done through a determination of heirship hearing. Potential heirs are notified of the decedent’s death so that they may make a legal claim toward the assets and real property within the estate. Additionally, it should be noted that this hearing takes place even if there is no will. Obviously, this hearing is of particular importance if there is no will. Just note that it still takes place if there is a will.
Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, there may be numerous other responsibilities that the personal administrator must ensure are completed. A probate attorney can be very helpful in the estate administration process.
What If There Is No Will?
If there is no will, the process is, generally, known as probate without a will or dying intestate. The estate may still qualify as a small estate, and it may still qualify for informal probate. Yet, depending on the circumstances, it may require formal probate. If someone dies and they do not have a will, Colorado law explains how assets are inherited. Intestate succession, which is the way the law refers to how assets are inherited, can seem complicated. To learn more about this topic, schedule a free consultation with Ball Morse Lowe.
Are the Rules of Probate Different If the Estate Is Small?
Yes, the rules of probate are different if an estate qualifies as a small estate. In Colorado, a small estate is defined as an estate that is worth less than $70,000 (as of 2020) in personal property and that has no real property. With a small estate, devisees and heirs can collect assets after completing a small estate affidavit, instead of needing to begin a case with the probate court. However, a small estate affidavit is a legal document. The person completing it swears that they will distribute the assets as they are required to according to the will or under the law of intestate succession.
How Long is Probate in Colorado?
The amount of time that probate can take depends on the complexity of estate administration. A small estate or an informal estate that has no objections or contests will take significantly less time than a formal estate with an invalid will or questionable will. This holds true even if a small estate or informal estate has no will. With that being said, both informal and formal probate cases must be open for a minimum of six months so that heirs can be identified and notified. However, full estate administration, complex estate administration, and estate administration involving objections and contests can take much longer.
Where Do I File a Will in Colorado?
You file the will with the probate court clerk within 10 days of the testator's death if the decedent's estate does not qualify as a small estate. Remember, if it is a small estate there are still certain steps that must be taken.
What Kind of Forms Do I Need to Fill Out?
The type of forms you need to fill out depends on whether you have a small estate, informal estate, formal estate, and whether there is a will involved. It also depends on where you are in the estate administration process. Additionally, if there are minors or adults involved that need a conservator or guardian appointed, or if a conservatorship or guardianship needs to be terminated, there are specific forms that must also be completed. There are also forms to set hearings, to publish notice of the hearings through publication, a notice of death, a motion to withdraw funds, forms for objections, and forms for trusts.
Unfortunately, there is no one answer that we can give to this question. It depends on the complexity of the probate matter. To see a full list of the various Colorado probate forms, visit the Colorado Judicial Branch's website.
How Many Probate Forms Are There?
There are over 160 Colorado probate forms on the Colorado Judicial Branch website. However, not every probate form is required for every probate case.
Should I Do Colorado Probate on My Own or Should I Hire a Probate Attorney?
Both the probate procedure and probate instructions are complex. While there are volunteer attorney clinics available through the Denver Probate Court Pro Se Resource Center, you would still be required to represent yourself during the estate administration process. You would still be required to deal with the creditors of the estate and handle any objections, as well as any contests associated with the will. You would also be required to handle preparing the tax returns for the decedent's estate.
Hiring a probate attorney can be very beneficial. In addition to having someone who is knowledgeable about probate procedure and probate instructions, you have someone on your side who can help you handle creditors and their claims, objections, and anyone who wants to contest the will. A probate attorney is also beneficial if you're handling a more complex estate that requires special reporting because of more valuable assets as well.