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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
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October 10, 2006: Probate Revisited

Q: What is probate anyway? You said anyone is capable of handling the process. But I am not an attorney, so I would not have a clue as to how to do it.

A: Probate is merely a process to settle the legal matters of the deceased. In some states, it involves a long, expensive, and intrusive administration where the Courts are involved in every step of the procedure. In Colorado, the Courts empower the Personal Representative and then are not involved unless a problem arises.

The forms to start the court proceedings are readily available on the internet at http://www.courts.state.co.us/index.htm. For unsupervised administration the following forms are needed: the Application (to start the process), the Acceptance (the Personal Representative saying if appointed I agree to act), the Informal Proceedings (order beginning the probate and appointing the Personal Representative), and the Letters (authorization for the Personal Representative to act). There are an Application form and an Informal Proceeding form if a Will is present and another set of both forms if there is no Will.

The forms are very simple to fill out by using the information contained in the death certificate and the Will, plus adding the addresses of the beneficiaries and Personal Representatives.

These four documents, along with the Will and filing fee of $206.00 (which includes the cost to certify seven letters), are filed with the Clerk of the District Court in the County where the deceased resided.

In addition to the originals, it is also wise to submit a copy of the Application, Acceptance, and Informal Proceedings, along with seven copies of the Letters, so you can get back a file stamped copy of each document for your records along with seven copies of the certified Letters. In case the Clerk cannot process the paperwork while you wait, also give a self-addressed big envelope with sufficient postage which the Clerk will use to return to you the processed documents. It is wise to make a copy of the Will for your use (but do not take the Will apart when copying).

After receiving back the file marked documents and the seven certified Letters, the Personal Representative needs to do the Information (the form is also on the internet), file the original with the Court, and send copies to the beneficiaries listed on the Application. The Information notifies the interested parties that a proceeding has been started.

A Notice to Creditors needs to be published in a newspaper in the County in which the probate is being done. The form is on the internet and the publication cost usually runs around $50.00. After the Notice is published, the newspaper will send an Affidavit of Publication which needs to be filed with the court.

Thereafter, nothing else needs to be submitted to the Court until the estate is ready to close. ThatŐs right. No Inventory. No reports. No Court hearings. No waiting period to pay bills and distribute assets. An Inventory is normally given to the residuary beneficiaries and then a Verified Statement (form is on the internet) is filed with the Court and copies sent to the beneficiaries listed on the Information, thereby closing the estate.

The probate process is very simple and straightforward. When done by the family, the cost is less then $300.00. Thus, "probate" is a viable and often desirable choice and at least in Colorado may be catching more flack than it deserves.

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