You are a Personal Representative for the Estate of a Loved One - Now What?
Losing a loved one is hard enough, but having to jump through the "hoops" of a probate court can compound the struggle for people who are not familiar with the process. These are some helpful tips to get you started in transferring your loved one's assets after death (probate).
Get OrganizedFind and secure important legal documents of the deceased. You should track down their will, trust, and any codicils/amendments made all in one place. Dig around and find all of the bank accounts, savings, investments accounts, financial statements, retirement accounts, and major bills. Ask for help from other family members and reach out to banks/financial advisors for information on accounts you might not know about. Create an inventory of all the financials of your loved one listing account information out. Find out if any assets have automatically transferred on death. The reason you want to separately identify these assets is because they will NOT be subject to the probate proceedings. These assets include property held in joint tenancy with a living person, assets in trust, and assets that designate a beneficiary or automatically transfer on death to another.
Get Formally Appointed as a Personal Representative (you have to be officially in charge)If your loved one died and left a will naming you the personal representative (PR) or executor of their estate you still have to be formally appointed by the court. If your loved one died without a will, property will pass using the instructions laid out in Colorado intestacy laws. You can still petition the court to appoint you as an administrator of the estate. File a new probate case with the District Court in the County where your loved one resided before they passed. Please remember that a Power of Attorney document doesn't work after your loved one passes!
Basic Steps of Probate (there is much more to it, but this is a good starting point)The probate case (case number will include the filing year and "PR") is filed with the appropriate county District Court and the Court appoints a PR formally. Original Will is lodged with the Court (even if no property needs to be formally transferred). Court issues Letters Testamentary if the deceased had a will. If there was no will, the court issues Letters of Administration.
Basics of PR Duties: PR gathers all the finances of the deceased and uses powers granted in Letter Testamentary to create accounts in the name of the estate. PR issues notice to creditors (published in newspaper and to credit bureaus). PR does a full accounting of the estate "inventory." PR obtains tax ID number for the estate. PR completes any tax returns for the estate of the deceased and does final tax return for the deceased (these are usually separate tax returns). PR pays outstanding estate debts, expenses and the creditors of the decedent from the assets of the estate.
Any real estate that needs to be sold to pay final expenses is sold (if necessary) and remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries based on the instructions in the will (or based on the Colorado rules of intestacy if no will).
Finally, the PR can then petition the Court to close the estate after at least 6 months have passed since the probate case was opened