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Frie, Arndt & Danborn Blog

Probate – When Someone Dies #4

by Frie, Arndt & Danborn

Probate – When Someone Dies #4

 “Coping with the loss of a loved one is difficult. We hope this information will help you focus on what you need to do and what you may wish to delegate to friends and family. This brochure will provide you with some basic information on what you may need to know in the first few days following a death. You should establish an early relationship with your attorney to assure that all matters are properly addressed. Seeking your attorney’s advice before you act may avoid more costly legal services later.

Personal Representative: If you are nominated as personal representative in a will, you have the power, before you are appointed by the court, to carry out written instructions of the deceased relating to the body, funeral and burial arrangements. You may begin to protect and safeguard the deceased’s assets. Do not remove or distribute assets before opening the estate. Other brochures are available from the Colorado Bar Association to explain the duties of the personal representative and how the personal representative is appointed when there is no will.

Search for the Will: The original will is usually in a safe place in the deceased’s home, a safe deposit box, or in an attorney’s office. It is also possible the will was lodged with the court for safekeeping during the deceased’s lifetime. When the original signed will is found, lodge it within 10 days with the probate court in the county where the deceased lived. If you are only able to find a copy of the signed will, it may be possible to offer it to probate. However, the signed original will is preferable. If a will cannot be found, an attorney can help guide you through the intestate probate process. Also look for a handwritten list of instructions, a letter to family or other similar documents. In Colorado, these documents may constitute a will.

Entry into Safe Deposit Box: Any person whose name is on the box may enter it at any time. An heir or beneficiary in a will can ask the bank to search for the will, a deed to a burial plot, or burial instructions. A representative of the bank will open the box in the presence of the heir or beneficiary and remove any will that is found. The bank will deliver it to the court by certified mail, registered mail or hand delivery, but consider asking for a copy of the will before they do. After the will is filed with the court, the personal representative named in the will can file a petition or application with the court to be appointed.

Search for Other Documents: The personal representative has the authority to search for any important documents. The search should include the home, office, place of business, and any safe deposit boxes. Meeting with advisors such as accountants, investment professionals, insurance agents, and attorneys is advised. Any information indicating that an asset exists or that bills are unpaid should be kept for use in the administration of the estate.

Items to Look for:
• funeral and burial plans
• safe deposit rental agreement and keys
• trust agreements
• nuptial agreements
• life insurance policies or statements
• pension, IRA, retirement statements
• income tax returns for several years
• gift tax returns
• marriage, birth and death certificates
• divorce papers
• military records and discharge papers
• computer bookkeeping records
• certificates of deposit
• bank statements, checkbooks and check registers
• notes receivable and payable
• motor vehicle titles
• deeds, deeds of trust, mortgages and title policies
• leases
• stock and bond certificates and account statements
• bankruptcy filings
• partnership or corporate agreements
• unpaid bills
• health insurance papers”

Our office has helped many grieving families and friends with the difficult matters that need to be handled after a loved ones death.  We understand the pain of the loss can make these matters extremely stressful and we try to assist in a way that alleviates some of the pressure.


The above excerpt was from a pamphlet is published as a public service by the Colorado Bar Association. Its purpose is to inform citizens of their legal rights and obligations and to provide information regarding the legal profession and how it may best serve the community. Changes may have occurred in the law since the time of publication. Before relying on this information, consult an attorney about your individual case.