What is Estate Administration?
Estate administration is the process of overseeing the disposition of a deceased person’s assets—their estate. The complexity of Colorado estate administration depends on the amount and type of property in the estate, whether there is a valid will, and whether any will contests or disputes among heirs are expected. In Colorado, there are three types of estate administration:
- Small estates: If there is less than $64,000 in probate assets, a successor to the deceased person can fill out an affidavit to that effect. All assets must then be released to that successor for administration. There is no court involvement.
- Informal administration: Most Colorado decedent’s estates fall into this category. Administration is commenced by filing the appropriate pleadings with the local district, or, if applicable, probate court.
- Supervised administration: This type of administration involves the highest level of court supervision, and is used when there is a dispute among heirs or beneficiaries or when there is a question as to the validity of the will.
Of course, it’s often not immediately apparent what type of administration is called for. A brief consultation with an experienced Colorado probate attorney can usually resolve this question and set the stage for getting the estate administration started.
Putting Colorado Estate Administration into Motion
The personal representative of the estate is in charge of estate administration. A personal representative is the same thing as an “executor,” but “personal representative” is now the term in common use in Colorado. A personal representative may be nominated for that role in the deceased person’s (decedent’s) will; the court formalizes that appointment. If there is no will, the court will appoint a personal representative, typically a close relative.
Even before a personal representative is named by the court, however, there are steps he or she can take to begin estate administration. A person named as personal representative in the will, even before being appointed by the court, is authorized to carry out written instructions of the deceased relating to funeral and burial arrangements. He or she may also begin to gather and safeguard the decedent’s assets, but must not dispose of any assets prior to opening the estate.
If there is a will, it is very important that it be filed or lodged with the court within ten days after the decedent’s death. This is true even if no court oversight is expected to be needed for the estate administration.. To begin the estate administration, certain pleadings must also be filed with the district court (or probate court in Denver County).
Duties of a Colorado Personal Representative
For purposes of estate administration, the personal representative is a fiduciary: a person to whom property is entrusted for the benefit of another or others. So, while personal representatives have control over estate assets, that control is not unfettered. Personal representatives must put the interests of the estate before their own interests, and must be impartial to both creditors and heirs, not showing personal preferences.
Duties of the personal representative include:
- Collecting and inventorying the assets of the estate.
- Managing the assets of the estate during the probate process. This must be done carefully and prudently.
- Notifying creditors of the death, and paying the legitimate bills of the estate.
- Distributing assets, after bills and expenses are paid, to the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate.
- Closing the estate once estate bills have been paid and the remaining assets have been properly distributed.
Colorado’s adoption of the Uniform Probate Code has simplified the estate administration process in recent years. However, there are still many things that can go wrong for personal representatives who are unfamiliar with the law. It is very helpful, and usually more efficient, to retain the services of an experienced Colorado estate administration attorney to assist with estate administration.
If you have questions about estate administration in Colorado, or about how to plan your estate to simplify administration for your personal representative and heirs, Davis Schilken, P.C. can help. Contact us at 303-670-9855 to arrange a consultation at one of our two locations in The Denver Tech Center and Golden, Colorado. We look forward to working with you.