A common misconception about probate is that it is a long and daunting process. In Colorado, absent any dispute among heirs, the process can be accomplished in a relatively short time frame. When the owner of a mineral interest dies, the interest needs to conveyed to the decedent's devisees (if he or she dies with a will) or to the decedent's heirs (if he or she dies without a will). Regardless of whether there is a will, there are two means for transferring the interest.
The first option is to open a probate. A personal representative is appointed by a court, who then conveys the mineral interest by a personal representative's deed. The probate process begins with determining all the lineal blood heirs or persons who obtained their interests by a will (devisee) of the decedent. Once names and addresses of the devisees are determined, a probate is opened for the estate of the deceased. Notice is then required to be sent to each person in the generation nearest to the deceased. Once it is determined who is entitled to receive notice, the probate paperwork is filed in the appropriate court. Approximately three weeks after the filing with the court, the personal representative is appointed.
A less common alternative to probate is a determination of heirship action to get the same results as a probate. Filing a determination of heirship though takes more paperwork than a typical probate. As with probate, a determination of heirship is a court process whereby the court determines the heirs or devisees entitled to the property. Among other requirements, a determination of heirship is not available until one year after death.
Fortunately, the probate clerks in Colorado, especially in Routt, Elbert, and Weld County, have been especially helpful in allowing a probate to be opened and administered in an efficient, timely manner.