Question: Last October, my mother-in-law died. She had a will that named her three children as her co-executors. She didn’t have much besides her house. Everyone agrees that the house should just be sold and the proceeds divided up equally. There was a reverse mortgage on the home. Given the small amount of money at issue and the fact that everyone agrees about what needs to be done, do we really need probate? And if so, do we really need a probate lawyer to get us through that process, or can we do it on our own?

Thank you,

Answer: I am sorry to hear about your loss, Susan.

Assuming that the house was titled to your mother-in-law alone, you are going to have to go through probate to get the authority to sell it. However, don’t let that intimidate you! It sounds as though all the likely heirs get along and agree on what the next step should be. If that’s true, you should be able to use Colorado’s informal probate process. The informal process limits the role of the court, but ensures that your mother’s instructions are followed and the creditors are properly dealt with. The Colorado Bar Association has a helpful primer on the probate process that explains what probate is.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I think that, despite the fact that this process should be relatively straightforward, some advice and oversight from a lawyer will probably be worth the hassle it will help you will avoid. For instance, you have already had one important deadline pass that you probably didn’t realize existed: your husband, or one of his siblings, was supposed to have lodged your mother’s will with the probate court for the county in which she was living at the time of her death.

If you try to handle this on your own, there isn’t going to be anyone to tell you what and when all the deadlines are. Even with everyone getting along, that can be stressful. Your situation is simple enough that a probate lawyer’s assistance probably won’t cost much, but not so simple that a little expertise won’t be worth paying for. The cost of the lawyer can often be charged to the estate as an expense.

I hope this was helpful. Good luck!