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Understanding Probateable Assets In Estate Planning

When it comes to estate planning, understanding how assets are transferred after death is essential. The distribution of assets can occur through various means, including by law, by contract, by trust, or through the probate process. In this blog post, we will explore the basics of probateable assets and highlight the importance of utilizing estate planning tools to avoid probate. While this information provides a general overview, it's crucial to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to tailor a plan that suits your unique circumstances.

1. What are Probateable Assets?

Probateable assets refer to assets that must go through the probate process for distribution after a person's death. These typically include assets solely owned by the deceased without a designated beneficiary or transfer mechanism in place. Common examples of probateable assets include real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts, and personal property.

2. Transferring by Law:

Certain assets may transfer automatically by law, bypassing the probate process. For instance, joint tenancy with right of survivorship allows property to pass directly to the surviving co-owner(s) upon the death of one owner. Similarly, assets with designated beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts, are distributed to the named beneficiaries upon the owner's death.

3. Transferring by Contract:

Assets can also be transferred by contract through various legal arrangements. For example, a person can designate a beneficiary for their bank accounts or investments through a payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) designation. Additionally, contractual arrangements like life insurance policies, annuities, and pension plans can specify beneficiaries who will receive the proceeds upon the owner's death.

4. Transferring by Trust:

Creating a trust is a powerful tool in estate planning that allows for the transfer of assets without going through probate. By placing assets into a trust and naming beneficiaries, you retain control over the assets during your lifetime and ensure a smooth transition to your beneficiaries upon your death. A revocable living trust is a common type of trust that offers flexibility and the ability to modify or revoke it during your lifetime.

5. Transferring through Probate:

Probate is the legal process of administering a deceased person's estate, including validating their will (if one exists), paying debts, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Assets that do not transfer automatically by law, contract, or trust are subject to probate. Depending on the state, the probate process can an ordeal that most people would like to avoid. It can be time-consuming, expensive, and open to public scrutiny, making it beneficial to explore alternatives.

6. Tools to Avoid Probate:

To avoid the probate process and ensure a smooth transfer of assets, it is essential to work with an estate planning attorney. They can help you employ various tools and strategies tailored to your specific needs. These may include establishing trusts, utilizing beneficiary designations, creating joint ownership arrangements, or implementing gifting strategies during your lifetime.

7. Probate in Colorado:

While it's important to be aware of the probate process and explore alternatives, it's worth noting that the probate process in Colorado is relatively simple and can be perfectly adequate for many individuals. The state has implemented streamlined procedures, making probate more accessible and efficient for smaller estates.

In Colorado, a simplified probate procedure known as "small estate affidavit" may be available for small estates. This process allows for a quicker transfer of assets without the need for formal probate proceedings. It involves completing a simple affidavit, providing proof of death, and presenting the document to the appropriate parties, such as financial institutions or the county clerk's office.

For larger estates that do require formal probate proceedings, Colorado offers the option of informal probate, which is generally less time-consuming and costly than formal probate. Informal probate allows for a more flexible and less formal process, while still providing legal protection and oversight.

However, it's important to note that even with a simplified or informal probate process, there are still legal requirements and procedures to follow. Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is crucial to navigate the probate process effectively, ensuring compliance with Colorado laws and regulations.

While Colorado's probate process may be suitable for many individuals, it's still essential to evaluate your unique circumstances and consider your goals and preferences. Discussing your estate planning options with an attorney who specializes in estate planning can help you make informed decisions and determine whether alternatives to probate would be beneficial in your specific situation.


Understanding how assets are transferred after death is crucial for effective estate planning. By recognizing the different methods of transferring assets, including by law, by contract, by trust, or through probate, individuals can make informed decisions to avoid probate and ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes. To create a comprehensive estate plan that suits your needs, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process and provide personalized solutions.

Remember, this blog post provides a general overview and should not be considered legal advice. Consult with a qualified professional to address your specific circumstances and to create an estate plan that meets your goals and objectives.

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