Understanding Probate – How to Avoid Probate

Probate can be a lengthy and costly process that follows the passing of a loved one. In Colorado, as in many other states, the probate process involves the court overseeing the distribution of a deceased person’s assets. However, there are proactive steps you can take during your lifetime to potentially avoid the probate process altogether. In this blog post, we will explore strategies and estate planning tools that can help you minimize the need for probate in Colorado, allowing for a smoother transfer of assets and reducing the burden on your loved ones.

  1. Establish a Revocable Living Trust:

One of the most effective ways to avoid probate is by creating a revocable living trust. By transferring ownership of your assets to the trust during your lifetime, you can maintain control over those assets while designating beneficiaries who will receive them upon your passing. A revocable living trust allows for seamless asset transfer outside of probate, saving time, costs, and maintaining privacy.

  1. Utilize Joint Ownership:

Joint ownership can be a valuable tool to avoid probate for certain assets. For example, if you hold property jointly with right of survivorship, such as a joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety, the property will automatically transfer to the surviving joint owner(s) upon your death. Similarly, joint bank accounts with rights of survivorship can bypass probate, ensuring immediate access for the surviving account holder. There are some potential drawbacks to this tool which will not be covered fully here.

  1. Designate Beneficiaries:

Many financial assets, such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and payable-on-death (POD) bank accounts, allow you to designate beneficiaries. By doing so, these assets can pass directly to the designated beneficiaries upon your death, without the need for probate. Regularly review and update beneficiary designations to ensure they align with your current wishes.

  1. Small Estate Affidavit:

In certain situations where the value of the estate is modest, Colorado offers a simplified probate process called a Small Estate Affidavit. If the estate’s total value, excluding exempt property and liens, is less than $75,000, you may be eligible to use this streamlined process. The Small Estate Affidavit allows for a faster distribution of assets without the need for formal probate proceedings.

  1. Gifts and Charitable Planning:

Consider making lifetime gifts of assets to your intended beneficiaries. The annual gift tax exclusion allows you to gift a certain amount each year to individuals without incurring gift taxes. Charitable planning, such as establishing a charitable trust or foundation, can also be an effective way to transfer assets while benefiting causes close to your heart.


Probate can be a time-consuming and costly process, but by proactively planning your estate, you can potentially avoid it altogether. Colorado offers various strategies and estate planning tools to help minimize the need for probate, ensuring a smoother transfer of assets to your loved ones. Whether through a revocable living trust, joint ownership, beneficiary designations, or other methods, consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to develop a customized plan that aligns with your goals and wishes. By taking these steps, you can provide peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones, knowing that your assets will be efficiently transferred according to your wishes, while minimizing the burden of probate.

If you have questions regarding estate planning, probate, or civil litigation contact Chapman Law, PLLC to discuss your situation.

This blog is intended to provide general information and, therefore, should not be treated as legal advice. You should contact a qualified attorney for questions about legal issues.