What to do when someone dies in Colorado

Posted by: Jan 27, 2017By Brian Stutheit

What do I do first?

The Denver Bar Association has brochures available online for the public which give basic information about Colorado probate, wills, what to do when someone dies, and other estate related subjects.  Brochures available include:

Go to:  http://www.denbar.org/Public/Public-Legal-Information

Funeral homes can also give you lots of advice about such things as getting a bank to release the original will from a safe deposit box, applying for Social Security and V.A. benefits, notifying banks, utility companies, creditors, etc.  Some mortuaries even provide form letters which the surviving family may use.

Is probate necessary?

If the person died owning only real estate held in joint title with rights of survivorship (the most common way husbands and wives own property), or the person’s assets were insurance and bank accounts with beneficiary designations, probate is probably unnecessary.  Colorado law also makes it easy to transfer property or assets worth less than $64,000 without going through probate.  For these so-called “small estates”, assets are collected by signing a small estate affidavit.

There are reasons to open probate unrelated to collecting assets.  Creditors sometimes open probate so they can sue to collect debts from the estate of the person who passed.  The courts call the person who passed a “decedent.”  An heir or survivor might open probate to continue a claim the decedent had against another person for damages.  A person might open probate to force third persons to account for what happened to a decedent’s assets.

Where should probate be filed?

Probate is opened in the district court of the county where the person was “domiciled” at the time of death.  “Domiciled” means the person’s permanent home.  If a person is not domiciled in Colorado, it is still possible to open probate in a Colorado county where the person owned property.

The Senior Law Handbook has information such as the following: distribution of assets, ownership of property, estate planning techniques, taxes, funeral issues and more. The Senior Law Handbook is a project of the Colorado Bar Association’s Elder Law and the Trust and Estate Sections.)   Link: www.cobar.org