Protecting the Rights of Heirs & Beneficiaries

Colorado Probate Lawyers

We have all heard the term "heir," probably from a murder mystery where the murder victim was very rich. Technically speaking, an "heir" is a person who is entitled to inherit property under the law if the deceased did not leave a will. A beneficiary or devisee is a person named in someone's will. Whether you are an heir or beneficiary you have certain rights. We at Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. can help you understand the extent of those rights and ensure that they are protected.

What Are the Rights of Heirs & Beneficiaries?

In Colorado, the person administering the estate, known as a personal representative in Colorado, must be appointed by the court. Once appointed, the personal representative has several duties, and the beneficiaries have certain rights.

Beneficiaries are entitled to:

  • Information about the estate, including the property the decedent owned and the property's values and the decedent's debt. Such information is normally furnished on an inventory.
  • See a copy of the will itself. (The original is normally filed with the court after death.)
  • Ask the personal representative for an account of what he or she has done on behalf of the estate. An account should be in writing, and the personal representative generally must provide supporting documentation if requested to do so.

A personal representative must put the interests of the estate in front of the personal representative's own interests and must act with the utmost honesty. Beneficiaries have the right to be treated fairly and equally. The personal representative may not favor one beneficiary over another.

Technically there is no time limit for closing an estate. It may take some time before a personal representative distributes property to the beneficiaries depending on the complexity of the asset holdings, the number of creditors, and whether there are any taxes due. Nonetheless, a personal representative who delays distribution of estate assets without a good reason is not fulfilling his or her duty.

Reasons a Personal Representative Can Be Removed

If a beneficiary believes that a personal representative is not acting honestly, mismanaging funds, or otherwise not fulfilling his or her duties, the beneficiary has the right to petition the court to have the personal representative removed and to have a different personal representative appointed.

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