When a Colorado resident dies owning real estate in this state, that property must be transferred to either the decedent’s beneficiaries or to a third-party purchaser. If the decedent owned the property as a joint tenant with another individual, title to the property transfers automatically. If the decedent had previously executed and recorded a beneficiary deed, title also passes automatically. To vest title in the surviving joint tenant or beneficiary under a beneficiary deed, a death certificate is recorded with the county clerk and recorder.
If the decedent died owning real estate in her name only (and without previously executing a beneficiary deed), different rules apply. A probate estate must be opened, and a personal representative must be appointed. A personal representative is the individual vested with the legal authority to pass title to real estate owned by a decedent. The document used to make the transfer is called a personal representative’s deed. To pass marketable title to real estate, the personal representative’s deed must be supported by documentation demonstrating that the individual signing the deed has the legal authority to do so. The probate court issues this document once the personal representative has properly complied with the applicable provisions of the Colorado Probate Code in opening the estate and providing proper notice of the opening to any interested parties. If the decedent died with a will, the document issued by the probate court is referred to as Letters Testamentary. If the decedent died without a will, it is referred to Letters of Administration.
If the personal representative is distributing real estate to estate beneficiaries and the applicable statute of limitations regarding bringing claims against the estate has not expired, it is prudent for the personal representative to also obtain an additional order from the probate court approving the distribution. This order is required to make certain that the personal representative is not distributing estate assets in an attempt to frustrate the decedent’s creditors. Without such an order authorizing the distribution, the estate beneficiaries will have difficulty obtaining title insurance for any sale they intend to make after they receive title to the property.
If you need assistance with a personal representative’s deed or any other matter related to probate or real estate, please feel free to contact my office. I can also help sell properties in probate, as I am a licensed Colorado Realtor. We would enjoy assisting you.