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Denver Probate Attorney

Probate is a legal process in which a deceased person’s estate is distributed to beneficiaries or heirs and creditors are dealt with.

If your loved one had a valid will, the estate’s property will be distributed according to their wishes outlined in the will. If the decedent died intestate (with no will), the property is distributed to heirs as set by state law.

An experienced probate lawyer at Colorado Estate Matters, Ltd. is ready to provide compassionate and knowledgeable advice to guide you through the probate process.

Call us at (303) 713-9147 or complete our online contact form to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.

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What are the different types of probate in Colorado?

Small estate affidavits

A small estate is a compilation of personal property valued at under $80,000 (as of 2023) and devoid of any real property, such as houses or land. In such instances, the appropriate procedure involves filling out a probate form called a small estate affidavit, which is then submitted to the probate court.

Once the small estate affidavit is filed and approved by the court, heirs can gather the deceased’s assets. The probate court process is streamlined in the case of a small estate, requiring minimal proceedings.

Informal probate proceedings

Most Colorado probate court proceedings are informal, meaning heirs and beneficiaries agree, and there are no creditor problems to resolve.

To begin, you’ll file an application to serve as a personal representative of the estate with the probate court. When the court approves your application, you receive a document known as a letter granting you legal authority to act for the estate.

The personal representative must take a series of actions and documents that must be filed with the court before any property can be distributed, the debts and taxes can be paid, and the probate closed with a final accounting and closing statement.

Formal probate proceedings

Formal probate is necessary when there are issues with the will, a dispute among the heirs, significant creditor issues, etc.

In what situations is probate required in Colorado?

Probate is required whenever someone dies with assets greater than the small estate threshold (or any amount of real estate) that did not pass automatically to beneficiaries (such as those held in living trusts, joint tenancy, beneficiary designation, payable on death, and transfer on death).

Speak with a Denver probate lawyer experienced in estate and intestate probate and administering estates held wholly or partially in living trusts. We practice in all counties in the south Denver metro area and elsewhere in Colorado.

What assets are not subject to probate?

Not all assets have to go through the probate process. Some transfer automatically upon the death of the owner. Examples include the following.

Property held in joint tenancy

When a property is held in joint tenancy, such as a home belonging to a husband and wife, when one joint tenant dies, the surviving joint tenant becomes the sole owner of the asset. This is known as the right of survivorship.

Beneficiary designations

Life insurance policies and retirement accounts have named beneficiaries. When the policyholder or account owner dies, the beneficiaries are entitled to the proceeds of the life insurance policy or the assets in the retirement account. There is no need to go through probate.

Property held in trust

In the event of the grantor or beneficiary’s death, the assets within the trust will seamlessly transition per the trust’s terms, bypassing the probate procedure. This highlights the advantages of incorporating a well-funded living trust into your estate planning strategy.

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What is the process for probate in Colorado?

1. Opening the estate and appointing a personal representative

To initiate the probate process in Colorado, the first step is to open the estate by filing the necessary paperwork with the court. Subsequently, the probate court issues formal appointment papers to the Personal Representative. These documents are essential for locating all property belonging to the estate.

2. Documenting estate assets

Once the estate is opened, the focus shifts to documenting its assets. This involves compiling information on various assets, including property interests, cash holdings, gold coin collections, as well as more conventional investment accounts and insurance policies. The complexity of the documentation, often maintained in an Excel format, is contingent upon the size of the estate. Timeliness is crucial, as the court requires an inventory of the estate within 90 days of the Personal Representative’s appointment.

3. Settling debts and claims

Addressing outstanding debts and claims is the next crucial step. Bills can be identified through traditional mail, while electronic notifications may be overlooked without access to email. Providing notice to creditors can be accomplished through methods such as newspaper publication or direct mail notifications.

Negotiations with creditors may lead to reduced settlements, particularly for expenses like final hospital bills. Certain debts, such as student loans and credit card balances, typically do not persist beyond the individual’s passing.

4. Deducting administration expenses and distributing assets

Following the resolution of debts, the next phase involves deducting administration expenses and distributing the remaining assets. The process concludes with the submission of a Final Accounting to the court, accompanied by distribution to interested parties.

How to avoid probate

A good Denver probate lawyer understands that probate can be a costly, complicated and stressful process. However, if you’re asking yourself how to avoid probate, it may be possible with some effective planning ahead of time, avoiding probate – and the emotional and financial stresses that can come with it – may be possible.

Planning is key

While the best course of action to help your loved ones avoid probate in the future will depend on your assets and your wishes, some of the tools you can use to avoid probate can include (but are not limited to) the following.


Nearly any asset you own can be transferred to a living trust, which will hold the assets and oversee them according to the terms of the trust (which you will set).

For instance, if you want to avoid probate for real estate, bank accounts, or other assets you may own, creating a living trust for these assets can be an effective way to avoid probate for them in the future.

You have a lot of options when it comes to creating a trust to avoid probate, and different types of trusts can have their advantages and drawbacks. Therefore, it’s best to contact us to find out which type of living trust would be most appropriate for your assets, needs, and wishes.


When spouses or partners jointly own an asset like, for instance, a home, they can avoid probate for this asset in the future by making sure that there is a “right of survivorship” in place for this asset. Rights of survivorship effectively transfer an asset to the surviving joint owner when the other owner has passed away.


Some assets like bank accounts or stocks may have “payable-on-death” (POD) or “transfer-on-death” (TOD) designations that can also help your surviving loved ones avoid probate.

In effect, POD and TOD designations will allow you to name a beneficiary (or multiple beneficiaries) for certain accounts, and these assets will be directly transferred to the named beneficiaries if you pass away. No probate will be necessary for such assets.

There may be several other tools and strategies that people can take advantage of when they are trying to put plans in place to help their loved ones avoid probate in the future.

Therefore, don’t hesitate to contact a Denver probate lawyer at Colorado Estate Matters, Ltd. to discuss which estate planning solutions may be your best option for avoiding probate.

Probate litigation in Colorado

Probate litigation in Colorado involves the legal processes of resolving disputes related to a deceased person’s estate. This can include conflicts over the validity of a will, the administration of the estate, the distribution of assets, and guardianship issues, among others. The complexity of probate law, coupled with the emotionally charged context of dealing with a loved one’s death, makes probate litigation a particularly nuanced field.

Conflicts we can help resolve

Probate litigation may arise under several circumstances, such as:

  • Will Contests: Disputes about the validity of a will, often based on allegations of undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, or improper execution.
  • Estate Administration Disputes: Conflicts over the handling of the estate’s administration, including disagreements with the executor’s or administrator’s actions.
  • Trust Litigation: Issues related to the management or interpretation of trusts, including disputes between trustees and beneficiaries.
  • Guardianship and Conservatorship Disputes: Contests over the appointment or conduct of guardians or conservators for minors or incapacitated adults.

Our approach to probate litigation

Colorado Estate Matters provides invaluable assistance in several ways:

  • Legal Expertise: Lawyers offer a deep understanding of probate law and the procedural nuances of the Colorado court system, essential for navigating the litigation process effectively.
  • Objective Advice: During emotional times, a probate lawyer can offer objective, clear-headed guidance, helping parties understand their legal options and the potential outcomes of different courses of action.
  • Dispute Resolution: Lawyers are skilled in negotiation and alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, which can be instrumental in achieving settlements without the need for prolonged litigation.
  • Court Representation: When disputes cannot be resolved outside of court, a probate lawyer can provide representation, presenting evidence and arguments to support their client’s position.

Probate litigation in Colorado is a complex intersection of legal procedures and emotional challenges. A probate lawyer plays a critical role in guiding clients through this difficult process, offering legal expertise, representation, compassion, and understanding.

What our Denver probate lawyer brings to the probate and estate process

Our probate lawyers bring to the estate and probate process not only significant experience and competence but also compassion and counseling to help families through this difficult period.

From simple situations to complex technical issues, and from good family relations to bitter squabbles, we have guided many families through the legal minefield and the difficult personal relationship issues that may arise during the probate litigation process.

We can represent the estate and the personal representative or a beneficiary to ensure the estate is handled appropriately.

Contact our Denver probate attorneys for caring representation

Our estate planning lawyers in Denver have more than 20 years of experience handling all matters of probate and estate law for our clients.

We provide open, transparent communication to our clients and any beneficiaries for a probate case. Call Colorado Estate Matters, Ltd. at (303) 713-9147. You can also complete our online contact form to schedule your no-cost, no-obligation consultation.

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Wonderful and helpful staff. Very happy with the service. Will highly recommend Justin Blow and staff. Victor and Barbara DeLauro

-Barbara D.

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Featured Attorney

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Justin W. Blow

Managing Partner and Attorney

Common Probate Questions

What is probate in Colorado?
Probate in Colorado is the legal process by which a deceased person’s assets are distributed and their debts are paid under court supervision.
When is probate necessary in Colorado?
Probate is typically required when a person dies with assets solely in their name, and those assets exceed a certain value, or there’s any real estate. The threshold amount changes over time, so checking the current limits is essential.
How do I start the probate process in Colorado?
To initiate probate in Colorado, you need to determine if formal probate is required, and then file an Application or a Petition (as well as the necessary ancillary documents) with the appropriate court, depending on the circumstances.
What assets are subject to probate in Colorado?
Generally, assets that are solely owned by the deceased, such as real estate, bank accounts, and personal property, are subject to probate. Jointly owned assets with rights of survivorship, assets held in a trust, and assets with designated beneficiaries typically bypass probate.
How long does the probate process take in Colorado?
The duration of probate in Colorado can vary depending on the complexity of the estate and any disputes that may arise. Often it takes a year or more to complete.
What are the costs associated with probate in Colorado?
Probate costs in Colorado can include court fees, attorney fees, personal representative fees, and other administrative expenses. These costs can vary based on the size and complexity of the estate.
Can I avoid probate in Colorado?
Yes, there are strategies to avoid probate in Colorado, such as creating a revocable living trust, using beneficiary designations on assets like life insurance policies and retirement accounts, and jointly owning property with rights of survivorship.
What are the rights and responsibilities of a personal representative in Colorado?
The personal representative (executor or administrator) is responsible for managing the estate, paying certain debts and taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the law and the deceased person’s will (if one exists).
How are disputes handled in Colorado probate cases?
Disputes in Colorado probate cases can be resolved through mediation, negotiation, or litigation in court if necessary. Common disputes may involve the validity of the will, claims by creditors, or disagreements among beneficiaries.
Is estate tax a concern in Colorado probate?

Colorado does not have a state-level estate tax, but federal estate tax may apply to larger estates. It’s important to consider federal tax implications when dealing with an estate.

Is estate tax a concern in Colorado probate?

Colorado does not have a state-level estate tax, but federal estate tax may apply to larger estates. It’s important to consider federal tax implications when dealing with an estate.
 It’s essential to consult with an attorney or legal professional experienced in Colorado probate law to get accurate and up-to-date information and guidance on your probate matter.

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