Probate is the court process of settling a deceased person's estate, whether it is with a will (testate) or without a will (intestate).
If you die testate, probate will be carried out according to the instructions left in your will. If you die intestate, Colorado Intestate Succession laws will dictate how your estate will be distributed.
Whether you die testate or intestate, having your estate avoid probate is a good thing for many reasons. Some of the most common reasons why people wish to avoid probate are as follows:
These are a few of the many reasons why you may want to avoid probate. But, how can probate be avoided?
Essentially, in order for your estate to avoid probate, you must own all of your property in such a way that upon your death, you own no property in your own name i.e. you have no probate property.
For the purpose of discussing probate avoidance, your property can be divided into two different categories:
Non-probate property is real or personal property that is not part of your estate. Because non-probate property is not considered part of your estate, it will:
The personal representative is accountable to the estate's beneficiaries, to whom he or she owes a fiduciary duty to properly supervise the administration of the estate and to safeguard the estate's assets for their benefit. The job of an executor is thus an important one. This is because it can preserve peace in the family and facilitate the transfer of wealth and property to the estate's heirs and beneficiaries.
Examples of non-probate property included:
These are just some examples of non-probate property. When you die, each of these types of non-probate property will bypass probate and go directly to a named beneficiary or surviving joint tenant by contract or operation of law.
Probate property is real and personal property that will require probate without proper planning. This includes:
Generally speaking, any real or personal property that you own in your own name at the time of your death will be considered probate property and will need to pass through probate. The bottom line, however, is that if you successfully remove all of your probate property from your estate, then probate may be avoided.
Along with enabling your estate to bypass probate, when you transfer title to your property to a revocable living trust, you will enjoy a number of other benefits, perhaps most important, the ability to plan for someone to manage your assets in the event you become incapacitated, the ability to structure distributions from your estate, and creditor protection for the trust beneficiaries.
An experienced estate planning attorney will be familiar with the difference between probate and non-probate assets, as well as, other ways to remove probate property from your estate. In addition, a good attorney will also be sensitive to the reasons why you may wish for your estate to avoid probate.
To learn more about avoiding probate in Colorado, contact an experienced Colorado estate planning attorney to arrange a no-cost, no-obligation consultation today.