Colorado offers some probate shortcuts for "small estates." These procedures make it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using simplified probate procedures or without any probate court proceedings at all -- by using an affidavit. And that saves time, money, and hassle.
Here are the ways you can skip or speed up probate. (If the affidavit procedure is used, there's no need to use the simplified probate procedure.)
Colorado has a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether when the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount. All an inheritor has to do is prepare a short document, stating that he or she is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. When the person or institution holding the property -- for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account -- gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset.
The out-of-court affidavit procedure is available in Colorado if the fair market value of property that is subject to disposition by will or state intestate succession law, less liens and encumbrances, is $66,000 or less. (This amount is adjusted for inflation and excludes joint tenancy property, property in a living trust, payable-on-death bank accounts, and other kinds of property that don't pass under a will.) There is a ten-day waiting period. Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-12-1201.
Colorado has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an executor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the executor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.
You can use the simplified small estate process in Colorado if the value of the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances, does not exceed the value of personal property held by the decedent as fiduciary or trustee, exempt property allowance, family allowance, costs of administration, reasonable funeral expenses, and medical expenses of last illness. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-12-1203.
You'll need to give the remaining assets and an accounting of where the property went to the inheritors. And then you'll file a document with the court stating that the estate value was less than that described above. You'll give a copy of this document to the inheritors and any creditors you know about.
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).