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Probate Shortcuts in Colorado

Save time and money when you wrap up a simple estate in Colorado.

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Need Professional Help? Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney.

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The probate process can be long and drawn-out, costing your survivors time as well as money. Fortunately, Colorado offers two probate shortcuts for "small estates." If the property you leave behind at your death is below a certain amount, Colorado allows the property to be transferred more quickly and with less hassle. In other words, if your estate qualifies as "small," your loved ones may be able to use simplified probate procedures, or even skip probate entirely.

Collecting Property With a Small Estate Affidavit

Colorado offers a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether. To qualify, the estate (the property you own at death) must meet these requirements:

  • the fair market value of all property can't exceed $74,000 (that's for deaths in 2022; this amount is adjusted for inflation each year),
  • no application or petition for appointment of personal representative is pending or has been granted in any jurisdiction (so if a probate proceeding has already started, the estate probably won't qualify), and
  • at least 10 days have elapsed since the death.

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-12-1201. The affidavit also can't be used to transfer real estate—only "personal property," which is essentially everything but real estate.

Note that even if you own more property than $74,000, your survivors may still be able to take advantage of the small estate affidavit procedure. That's because under Colorado law, certain types of property don't count, such as:

So even relatively large estates might still qualify as a "small estate" for purposes of the affidavit procedure.

How to Use Colorado's Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit

If your estate meets the requirements listed above, all your inheritor has to do is sign a simple document under oath, called an affidavit. Here's what the Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit contains:

  • a statement that the inheritor is entitled to the property
  • statements that the estate meets the requirements discussed above, and
  • descriptions of the property being collected as well as its value.

After signing the document (and swearing to its truthfulness) and having it notarized, the inheritor simply presents the affidavit to the person or institution holding the property—for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account. The inheritor will usually also need to provide a certified copy of the death certificate. After that, the person or institution transfers the property.

Simplified Probate for Small Estates (Summary Administration)

Another probate shortcut that Colorado offers is a simplified probate process for small estates, called "summary administration" (or "summary probate") in Colorado. Unlike the affidavit procedure discussed above, summary administration does not allow your survivors to skip probate. However, the probate process is much more streamlined than full probate, saving time, probate fees, and potentially lawyer fees.

You can use summary administration in Colorado if the value of the entire estate, less liens and encumbrances (meaning after debts are subtracted), does not exceed the value of:

  • personal property held by the decedent as fiduciary or trustee
  • exempt property allowance (a set amount a surviving spouse or children are entitled to under Colorado law)
  • family allowance (a set amount that a surviving spouse or children that the deceased person was supporting are entitled to under Colorado law)
  • costs of administration (costs of probate)
  • reasonable funeral expenses, and
  • the medical expenses of a last illness.

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-12-1203. So what does all this mean? It's tricky not to have an exact dollar amount to compare against the size of your estate, but it really depends on your circumstances—for example, whether you leave behind a spouse and/or children. Some of these amounts also change each year to match cost of living adjustments.

The bottom line is that if the size of your estate doesn't exceed these amounts, which can be set aside from your estate by law, your executor or personal representative can wrap up your estate in probate court very quickly because there aren't any remaining assets after these amounts are paid out.

How to Use Colorado's Summary Administration

If the estate qualifies, the executor or personal representative of the estate can use summary administration by taking the following steps:

  1. The personal representative files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure.
  2. If approved by the court, the personal representative can then immediately distribute the assets to the people who are entitled to them. (The estate can skip over some requirements of full probate, such as providing notice to creditors.)
  3. The personal representative files a closing statement and accounting with the probate court.
  4. The personal representative provides a copy of the closing statement to the people who received property, creditors, and anyone else who may have an interest in the property.

Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-12-1204. If it's available to your estate, summary administration allows the executor or personal representative to distribute the property in the estate without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate.

For More Information

For more help handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo). For an introduction to how you can plan your estate to help your survivors, try Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).

Get Professional Help
Talk to an Estate Planning attorney.
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You should not send any sensitive or confidential information through this site. Any information sent through this site does not create an attorney-client relationship and may not be treated as privileged or confidential. The lawyer or law firm you are contacting is not required to, and may choose not to, accept you as a client. The Internet is not necessarily secure and emails sent through this site could be intercepted or read by third parties.

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