Distributing Assets in Probate
Many of us have heard the age-old adage: “Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes.” While this holds a modicum of truth, it lacks one crucial piece of reality – probate. If you’ve ever been the executor of a will or have had a loved one pass away, you’re likely familiar with this intricate legal process. It’s a road many of us will travel, but few understand. That’s why TNS Associates, a premier probate attorney firm with offices in Littleton, Cherry Creek, and Denver, Colorado, stands ready to guide you every step of the way.
Probate and Asset Distribution
At its core, probate is the court-supervised process of authenticating a last will and testament if the deceased made one. It includes locating and determining the value of the person’s assets, paying their final bills and taxes, and eventually distributing the remainder of the estate to the rightful beneficiaries.
In Colorado, as in many other states, certain types of assets are considered “non-probate” assets. This means they pass to beneficiaries without having to go through the probate process and are not governed by intestate succession laws. Here are several categories of such assets:
- Jointly Owned Property: Real estate, bank accounts, and other assets owned in joint tenancy automatically pass to the surviving owner without going through probate. The right of survivorship applies, which bypasses the probate process.
- Life Insurance Policies: The proceeds from life insurance policies that have designated beneficiaries other than the deceased’s estate are not subject to probate. The proceeds are paid directly to the named beneficiaries.
- Retirement Accounts: Similarly, retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s have named beneficiaries. Upon the account holder’s death, the assets within these accounts pass directly to the designated beneficiaries, outside the probate process.
- Living Trusts: Assets held in a living trust are not subject to probate. Upon the death of the trustor, the assets are transferred directly to the named beneficiaries by the trustee, bypassing the probate process entirely.
- Vehicles with Transfer-on-Death Registration: Colorado allows vehicle owners to register their vehicles with a transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiary. This means that upon the owner’s death, the vehicle is transferred directly to the beneficiary without having to go through probate.
Please note that while these assets bypass the probate process, some of them may still be subject to estate taxes. It’s essential to consult with an experienced probate attorney in Littleton, CO.
Probate starts with a petition filed at the county court where the decedent lived at the time of their death. The court then appoints an executor or personal representative to oversee the probate process. If there’s a will, this representative is usually named therein. Without a will, the court will appoint a representative.
The next step is asset valuation, a process in which all assets are identified, located, and appraised. These assets include everything from real estate, vehicles, and jewelry to stocks, retirement accounts, and personal belongings.
Following asset valuation, the probate process then moves on to settling liabilities. These can include unpaid bills, taxes, funeral costs, and any outstanding debts. The representative uses the estate’s assets to settle these liabilities.
After all the debts are paid, the remaining assets are then distributed to the beneficiaries as outlined in the will or as per state laws if there’s no will.
The journey through probate doesn’t have to be confusing or daunting. With TNS Associates’ probate attorney in Cherry Creek, CO, it becomes a process handled with care, competence, and the utmost professionalism. Let us take the burden off your shoulders, one step at a time. Contact TNS Associates today to safeguard your peace of mind and ensure a smooth, efficient asset distribution.