Many people in Colorado may have heard of the term “probate” and they may envision it to be a long, complicated process. However, there are actually three types of estate administration processes here: those involving small estates, those involving uncontested (informal) estates and those involving contested (formal) estates. The probate process an estate will go through depends on the value of the estate and whether or not the estate is contested, including situations where there is an invalid or ambiguous will.

Small estates are those that are worth less than $50,000 and do not contain any real property. Heirs may collect assets in a small estate through the execution of an affidavit that is submitted to the court. A formal probate action does not have to be opened for a small estate.

Uncontested estates can go through an informal probate process. These are estates in which a valid will exists, intestacy is clear, no one is challenging the will and a qualified personal representative is selected. Informal probate actions are required to be open with the court for a minimum of six months.

Finally, there are contested estates — situations in which a will may be invalid or ambiguous or situations in which an heir is challenging the will or the administration of the will. Formal probate is required for contested estates. Like informal probate actions, formal probate actions are required to be open with the court for a minimum of six months. Though, formal probate can be more complex than informal probate.

It is important that those who have lost a loved one in our state understand what probate process will apply to them. Estate administration can be relatively simple for a small estate, while it can be much more complicated if formal probate is required.