Do I Have to File Probate?
In Colorado, Probate must be opened unless the decedent (the person who has died) didn’t own any real property AND owned less than $66,000 in assets OR the decedent held all their assets in a trust.
If the decedent only owned, for instance, a vehicle, a bank account, and some household items, the total value of which was less than $66,000, then a rightful heir can simply use a form (Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit) plus a valid Death Certificate to re-title the vehicle, collect the bank account contents, and retrieve the household items. That heir, however, is bound to appropriately distribute these assets. That is, if there is a valid Will, that heir must distribute the assets according to the Will. If there is no Will, that heir must distribute the assets according to the laws of intestacy (the laws that dictate who gets what when there is no Will).
If the decedent was the grantor of a trust, and if all their property was listed in the trust AND any property with titles was titled in the name of the trust, then the trustee will simply follow the guidelines written in the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries, and no probate is needed.
What we often see, however, is that a trust is not fully “funded,” meaning the decedent owned some property that didn’t get titled to the trust and is still titled, say, in the decedent’s name. Unfortunately, this usually means probate must be opened in order to distribute that asset.
If you or a loved one are looking at going through the probate process, we are happy to help guide you through. Please feel free to contact us. You may also find it helpful to review the court’s self-help manuals and resources found here: https://www.courts.state.co.us/Self_Help/estate/.