What is the probate process in Colorado?

July 20, 2015 Posted In Probate, Estate, & Trust Administration
by Colorado Estate Matters

This is the only guide you need to navigate Colorado probate

Many estates must navigate the Colorado probate waters after a person’s death. This process can range from straightforward in uncontested cases to complex and demanding in situations involving disputed wills or estate administration issues. Below, our Denver probate attorney delves into the Colorado probate process, shedding light on its nuances and guiding you through its intricacies.

colorado probate process

What are the different types of probate in Colorado?

In Colorado, the probate process is designed to accommodate estates of varying sizes and complexities through three distinct types: informal probate, formal probate, and small estate probate. Each type serves different needs based on the estate’s total value, the complexity of assets, the presence and clarity of a will, and whether any disputes among heirs are expected.


Informal probate is the most straightforward and least costly process, intended for estates with a valid will, no anticipated disputes among heirs or beneficiaries, and no complicated assets requiring detailed management. This process allows for the administration of the estate without constant court supervision.


Formal probate is required for more complex situations, such as when the will is contested, the estate is insolvent, or significant disputes among heirs or beneficiaries.

Formal probate is characterized by a higher degree of court involvement, with a judge making important decisions at various stages, such as validating the will, appointing the personal representative, and overseeing the asset distribution. This process is more structured and public, involving formal court hearings that interested parties can attend. Due to its complexity and the level of judicial oversight, formal probate is more time-consuming and costly than informal probate.

Small estate

Small estate probate, also known as a small estate affidavit or summary administration, is tailored for estates that fall below a certain value threshold, which, as of the last update, is set for estates with personal property valued at $74,000 or less and real property that does not require formal transfer. This process is designed to simplify the transfer of assets to heirs without a formal or informal probate process.

What is the probate process in Colorado?

1. Opening the probate case with the court

Certain forms must be accurately completed and submitted to Denver Probate Court to initiate probate. This includes documents for formal probate of wills and the appointment of personal representatives. A $164 filing fee accompanies these submissions.

Upon acceptance, the court designates a personal representative responsible for notifying all interested parties, signaling the probate case’s commencement.

2. Managing the estate during probate

This phase, often the most complex, involves several critical steps:

  • Notifying creditors and settling valid debts
  • Cataloging and appraising estate assets
  • Fulfilling tax obligations
  • Maintaining transparent records of estate transactions
  • Liquidating assets, if necessary, to meet financial obligations
  • Distributing remaining assets per the will’s directives

3. Closing the probate case

Concluding probate entails submitting documentation to the court, affirming the estate’s debts are cleared and assets distributed. This marks the probate process’s end.

How long is the probate process in Colorado?

The duration of the probate process in Colorado can vary widely depending on several factors, including the type of probate procedure followed, the complexity of the estate, the presence of a will, and whether there are any disputes among beneficiaries or creditors.

  • Informal probate: For estates that qualify for informal probate, where there is a clear will and no disputes, the process can be relatively quick. Informal probate might take anywhere from six months to a year.
  • Formal probate: This process involves more court oversight and can take significantly longer, often from one to two years or more. The increased time is due to the need for court hearings, potential litigation among interested parties, and the detailed administration required for larger or more complicated estates.

Small estate procedure: This process can be completed within a few weeks to a couple of months, as it typically requires filing an affidavit and does not involve formal court proceedings.

Addressing debts and creditors

The personal representative has specific responsibilities regarding the estate’s debts and creditors. These steps are crucial for ensuring that all valid debts are paid before distributing the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries. The process typically involves the following actions:

  • Notification of creditors: Colorado law requires the personal representative to notify known creditors of the decedent’s passing and the ongoing probate proceedings.
  • Publication of notice: The personal representative must also publish a notice to potential creditors in a local newspaper.
  • Review of claims: Once creditors have submitted their claims against the estate, the personal representative is responsible for reviewing these claims to determine their validity.
  • Payment of valid debts: Valid debts and expenses, including funeral expenses, taxes, and administration costs, are paid from the estate’s assets. The personal representative must ensure that these debts are paid in order of priority as established by Colorado law.
  • Dispute of invalid claims: If the personal representative believes that a claim is invalid or incorrect, they have the authority to dispute the claim.
  • Distribution of remaining assets: Only after all valid claims, expenses, and taxes have been paid can the personal representative distribute the remaining assets of the estate to the beneficiaries according to the will’s terms or, if there is no will, according to Colorado’s intestacy laws.

Throughout this process, the personal representative must act with due diligence and in the estate’s best interests, ensuring that the estate’s assets are used primarily to satisfy legitimate claims and expenses before any distributions to beneficiaries.

How can an attorney help me?

An attorney with Colorado Estate Matters can play a crucial role in navigating the complexities of the Colorado probate process, providing essential legal guidance and support to personal representatives and beneficiaries alike. Here are several ways in which an attorney can assist:

  • Interpreting the will and other documents
  • Navigating probate court procedures
  • Advising on estate and tax laws
  • Managing estate debts and liabilities
  • Resolving disputes among beneficiaries
  • Assisting with asset distribution
  • Advising on fiduciary responsibilities
  • Facilitating the closing of the estate

By leveraging their expertise in probate law, attorneys can significantly reduce the burden on personal representatives, help avoid legal pitfalls, and ensure that the probate process is completed as efficiently and effectively as possible.

We’re here to provide compassionate guidance

Navigating the probate process requires legal acumen and empathetic understanding. Colorado Estate Matters offers both, guiding you through each step with expertise and sensitivity. To discuss your estate planning needs or probate concerns, reach out at (303) 713-9147 or via our contact form. We can honor your loved one’s legacy with dignity and care.

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