Grand Junction Probate Administration Attorney
Estate Administration Lawyer in Grand Junction
If you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, you may be experiencing an emotional roller coaster and probably have many questions about what will happen next. You may be worried because the deceased had no Will; creditors are aggressively demanding payment; or you have other concerns about finances. Perhaps you are nominated as the Personal Representative in the Will, but have no idea what is expected of you. We know that most clients who come to us at this time have never had to deal with an estate or a Probate court and the whole process seems very intimidating. For that reason, we make every effort to lessen the burden with compassionate, professional and expeditious service.
If you need help with a probate or estate matter, we urge you to contact a Grand Junction probate attorney.
Unless you are appointed as Personal Representative you have no role in the administration of the estate even if the deceased is a member of your immediate family. Your only obligation is to lodge the deceased person's Will and any Codicils (if those documents are in your possession) with the District Court serving the county where the deceased resided. However, if the Will appoints you as Personal Representative (formerly known as the Executor or Executrix) and the court ratifies that appointment, you are charged with managing the estate until the estate is closed.
Once you have attained the services of a Probate Attorney, he or she should examine the Will for the names of the beneficiaries and specific instructions regarding property distribution and probate. He or she should discuss with you whether there are any unknown or missing heirs, the likelihood of the Will being contested and what assets are subject to probate. This conversation will assist the attorney in determining what type of probate is appropriate - Formal Probate or Informal Probate. The Probate System is somewhat flexible, and depending upon the circumstances of the estate, it makes sense (whenever practical) to opt for Informal Probate. Finally, make sure that you discuss legal fees. Experienced Probate Attorneys are familiar with the time and effort involved, and will be willing to quote a flat fee for a non-contested Probate. Beware of attorneys who are vague in explaining the cost and time involved.
The Probate Lawyer will prepare all documents that must be filed with the court to open the estate; publish a Notice to Creditors and deal with creditor claims; represent you in all Probate proceedings; prepare an inventory, have the estate assets appraised; oversee the sale of any real estate and personal property that are to be sold; distribute the assets to the beneficiaries; and close the estate.
Informal Probate vs. Informal Probate
If the deceased had a Will, the estate is said to be "testate" and the distribution of assets will be done according to the terms of the Will. However, if the deceased did not have a Will, the distribution will be according to the "Colorado laws of intestacy" which dictate how the estate is to be divided.
Regardless of whether there is a Will or not the matter can be handled through Informal Probate (which is less expensive) if all family members are in agreement and there are no other complications, e.g. no missing or unknown heirs. In that case the Probate Division of the District Court will appoint a Personal Representative and he or she can proceed to handle the estate business with no further court approval. Theoretically, Informal Probate takes a minimum of six months, but as a practical matter most Probate lawyers do not close the estate for one year so that all creditor claims are extinguished.
Estates that include a Trust will require administration by the Trustee; the person or entity designated in the Trust documents to manage the assets held by the Trust. The Trustee's job is similar to that of the Personal Representative, however the process is more streamlined since there is no court involvement. If the Trust was properly funded and the documents were clearly drafted, administration and distribution of assets to the beneficiaries will be smooth and of short duration. However, as some Trusts allow more Trustee discretion in the distribution of assets than others, there may be times that the Trustee will need guidance in interpreting the terms of the Trust documents. Because the Trustee is held to a strict standard of conduct to act for the benefit of the Trust estate and the beneficiaries, it is imperative that he or she avoid potential claims of breach of fiduciary duty. An experienced Trust and estates attorney can provide the direction you need in order to avoid problems. However, if disputes do arise between the Trustee and the beneficiaries, the controversy may need to be resolved by the Court in Trust litigation.
Contact a Grand Junction Probate Administration Attorney at the firm for a complimentary 30 minute consultation for estate planning and probate.