Estate Executor Attorneys in Colorado
What Is an Executor?
The death of a loved one is never easy, and even with good planning there is still work to be done. At some point the deceased person's property will need to be administered. Most people have heard the term "executor." This is the person, or sometimes more than one person, who manages the estate of a deceased person and ultimately distributes property to heirs or beneficiaries. Colorado uses the term "personal representative" instead of executor, but the duties are the same. If the person died with a will, the will generally names the person who will act as personal representative. If the person died without a will, then Colorado law lists the persons who have priority to be appointed personal representative.
However, sometimes there is a "tie" and several people have equal priority. This is common when an unmarried person dies but is survived by children. The children all have equal rights to be appointed personal representative. However, this need not be a problem. If the children all agree on who should assume the role of personal representative, those who will not act can resign or "renounce" their right to be appointed. Don't assume that the oldest should be chosen. Being a personal representative is not an honorary title - it takes work. The person chosen should be good at keeping records and managing money.
How a Personal Representative Is Appointed
A personal representative is always appointed by the court even if the deceased left a will. In Colorado, however, this process can be informal and can be completed without a court hearing as long as everyone gets along. Once appointed, the personal representative has several duties. One of the most important is to put the interests of the estate in front of the personal representative's own interests. The personal representative may not favor one heir or beneficiary over another. The personal representative must manage property of the estate with utmost care.
The personal representative must:
- Collect and inventory the assets of the estate
- Manage the assets during the probate process
- Pay the final bills of the deceased
- Make distributions to the heirs or beneficiaries
What Happens to Debt?
A common question that we receive concerns the deceased person's debt. Many family members are concerned that the burden of the debt will fall on them. Unless a family member co-signed on the debt, surviving family are not responsible for the deceased person's debt. However, creditors must be paid from assets of the estate. This means that the final distributions to heirs or beneficiaries will be reduced by the amount of debt, but should the debt exceed the family of the estate, the creditors lose.
Creditors may begin calling soon after death. Tell them to wait. It is important to first collect all of the assets of the estate and determine their value before paying creditors. Similarly, the personal representative should not make distributions of property until all of the creditors are known. Creditor claims are subject to certain time limits and once these pass, the claims are cut off. Once everything is finished the estate can be closed. Generally speaking, a simple estate can be administered in about a year. But there is no time limit, so if complications arise, there is no need to rush.
The services that John Konz at Jorgenson, Brownell & Pepin provided to myself and my family were invaluable. Their responsiveness, professionalism, understanding, and commitment to our needs were immeasurable.