Having a Will might not be enough to avoid probate. In Colorado, if you own real estate titled only in your name and/or if the combined value of your assets is $70,000 or more, then your estate will be subject to probate – even if you have a Will.
Only assets that do not already have a specific “transfer-upon-death” or “payable-on-death” designation – like life insurance or retirement accounts – will have to pass through probate.
Why go through Probate?
The purpose of probate is to prevent fraud after someone’s death. Imagine everyone stealing the castle after the Lord dies.
Probate is a way to freeze the estate until a judge determines that:
- the Will is valid,
- all the relevant people have been notified,
- all of the property in the estate has been identified and appraised,
- creditors have been paid, and
- taxes have been paid.
Once all of that has been accomplished, the court issues an Order distributing the property and the estate is closed.
While a Will is important, and clarifies how you want your assets distributed when you die, it does not avoid the probate process if you have assets in excess of $70,000 or own real property. Having a Will is a great first step in an estate plan, and it could be sufficient for your needs if other measures are put in place.