2021 Colorado Code
Title 15 - Probate, Trusts, and Fiduciaries
Article 12 - Probate of Wills and Administration
Part 6 - Personal Representative; Appointment, Control, and Termination of Authority
§ 15-12-621. Public Administrator - Decedents' Estates - Areas of Responsibility
- The public administrator of each judicial district shall be responsible for handling the administration of decedents' estates within such judicial district under the following circumstances:
- Where the decedent died a resident of that judicial district; or (a) (I) Where the decedent died a resident of that judicial district; or
- Where the decedent was a nonresident of the state of Colorado and the decedent has property located within that judicial district; and
- Where no individual can be found who is willing and able to administer the estate of the decedent by virtue of being either nominated to act as a personal representative under the last will of the decedent, or is an heir or devisee of the decedent entitled to receive a portion of the decedent's estate.
- A public administrator may also administer a decedent's estate within the public administrator's judicial district in cases where the decedent's heirs, devisees, creditors, or nominated personal representative, do not act to evidence their willingness or intention to administer the decedent's estate within sixty days from the date of death, by either:
- Assuming responsibility for the administration of the estate by use of an affidavit pursuant to sections 15-12-1201 and 15-12-1202; or
- By filing a petition or application to open the estate in a district or probate court in this state.
- The grant of authority to a public administrator in this section shall not supersede the normal priority for the appointment of a personal representative as set forth in section 15-12-203; except that a public administrator shall have priority for appointment over creditors of the estate.
- In estates where the location or identity of some or all of the decedent's heirs or devisees is unknown, the requirement for the publication of notice to such persons concerning the petition for the appointment of a public administrator as personal representative or special administrator of the estate shall be waived unless the court otherwise directs.
- All decedent estates in which the public administrator has been appointed as the personal representative of the estate shall be closed in a formal hearing in accordance with section 15-12-1001.
- Small estates, as defined in section 15-12-1201, may be administered by the public administrator using an affidavit as provided in section 15-12-1201, with the same effect as provided in section 15-12-1202. The claims period ends one year from the date of the decedent's death. At the end of the claims period, the public administrator shall summarily make distribution of estate assets by distribution to allowed claimants pursuant to the priorities set forth in section 15-12-805. The remainder of the estate's funds, if any, must be distributed to the decedent's heirs or devisees as determined under this code. In determining who is entitled to an estate's funds, a public administrator may rely on affidavits by persons who set forth facts to establish their claims, heirship, or the validity of a testamentary document. The public administrator is not liable for any improper distributions made in reasonable reliance on information contained in such affidavits. All estates administered by a public administrator pursuant to the small estate procedure are closed by the filing of a public administrator's statement of account with the appointing district or probate court. The statement of account must set forth all receipts and disbursements made during the administration of the estate, including the public administrator's fees and costs, and the fees and costs of the public administrator's staff and investigators. Copies of all fee statements reflecting such fees and costs must be filed with the statement of the account. Upon filing of the public administrator's statement of account, the public administrator must be discharged and released from all further responsibility and all liability with regards to the estate.
- In the absence of any interested person willing to make funeral and final disposition arrangements, a public administrator may make funeral and final disposition arrangements for the decedent. The public administrator shall make reasonable efforts to see that the arrangements are consistent with the decedent's apparent religious or other preferences regarding such matters. A public administrator may authorize the cremation or natural reduction of the decedent's remains if the decedent left signed written instructions, or other funeral arrangements authorized by the decedent, that indicated the decedent's wish to be cremated or naturally reduced. A public administrator may authorize cremation or natural reduction if public funds will be needed to complete the administration of an estate because the estate lacks the apparent assets to pay fully all necessary administration, funeral, and burial costs and expenses. In cases of doubt, the public administrator may decline to authorize cremation or natural reduction.
- Whenever a public administrator is administering or investigating a decedent's estate, the public administrator or the public administrator's authorized employee or agent may make an immediate search for the decedent's assets and burial instructions; and in furtherance thereof, a public administrator may prepare a certificate stating that he or she is a public administrator administering or investigating the estate of the decedent, that the decedent died on a stated date, and that such person may have assets or a will or burial instructions which are needed for the proper administration of the decedent's estate. Any entity, person, bank, corporation, or financial institution that receives such a certificate shall promptly release to the public administrator, or to the public administrator's authorized employees or agents, all information that such entity has at its disposal concerning any assets in which the decedent had any interest, whether such assets be jointly or individually owned; and any such entity, person, bank, corporation, or financial institution shall promptly grant access to the public administrator, or to the public administrator's authorized employees or agents, to any safe deposit box which the decedent had the right of entry to search and remove any will or burial instructions concerning the decedent's estate. For this preliminary investigation, the public administrator shall not be required to furnish a death certificate, an affidavit pursuant to section 15-12-1201, or letters. If a will, codicil, or burial instructions concerning the decedent is discovered as a result of this investigation, upon giving a receipt for same, the public administrator, or the public administrator's authorized employee or agent, shall be entitled to receive the original of such document. The public administrator shall lodge the original of any will or codicil so discovered in the district or probate court having proper jurisdiction. A copy of such instrument shall be provided to any heir or devisee of the decedent who requests it. Any costs incurred in the drilling of a safe deposit box or the copying of any estate documents shall be paid by the estate of the decedent. If any burial instructions are found, the public administrator shall promptly deliver such instructions to the person or persons who have the right to dispose of the decedent's remains. Receipt of a certificate of the public administrator as provided by this section shall fully discharge any entity, person, bank, corporation, or other financial institution from all liability for the release of any information concerning the decedent's assets or the granting of access to a safe deposit box, or for any acts or omissions by the public administrator with reference to these items, without the necessity of inquiring into the truth of any facts stated in the certificate. Any entity, person, bank, corporation, or other financial institution who refuses to honor a properly presented certificate as provided in this section shall be liable for all damages and costs, including reasonable attorney fees and costs, suffered by the estate as a result of the failure of such entity to comply with the public administrator's request for information.
- A public administrator may act as a special administrator in a decedent's estate when a creditor or claimant requests such an appointment for the purpose of having the public administrator represent the estate in an action to be brought by the creditor or claimant against the estate. A public administrator requested to act as a special administrator in such cases need act only if the creditor or claimant makes advance arrangements, satisfactory to the public administrator, to pay all reasonable fees and costs likely to be incurred by the public administrator in the public administrator's performance as special administrator regardless of the outcome of the creditor's or claimant's claim or litigation against the estate.
History. Source: L. 73: R&RE, p. 1586, § 1. C.R.S. 1963: § 153-3-621. L. 91: Entire section R&RE, p. 1456, § 3, effective July 1. L. 2018: (6) amended,(SB 18-165), ch. 101, p. 778, § 2, effective August 8. L. 2019: (6) amended,(SB 19-241), ch. 390, p. 3464, § 8, effective August 2. L. 2021: (7) amended,(SB 21-006), ch. 123, p. 493, § 14, effective September 7. History. Source: L. 73: R&RE, p. 1586, § 1. C.R.S. 1963: § 153-3-621. L. 91: Entire section R&RE, p. 1456, § 3, effective July 1. L. 2018: (6) amended,(SB 18-165), ch. 101, p. 778, § 2, effective August 8. L. 2019: (6) amended,(SB 19-241), ch. 390, p. 3464, § 8, effective August 2. L. 2021: (7) amended,(SB 21-006), ch. 123, p. 493, § 14, effective September 7.
Section 31(2) of chapter 123 (SB 21-006), Session Laws of Colorado 2021, provides that the act changing this section applies to final dispositions of human remains or human fetuses made on or after September 7, 2021.ANNOTATION
Law reviews. For article, “Practical Problems of Evidence in Real Estate Titles”, see 24 Rocky Mt. L. Rev. 430 (1952). For article, “The Public Administrator: A User's Guide”, see 40 Colo. Law. 81 (Jan. 2011). For article, “Streamlining the Public Administrators' Operations: Changes Resulting from the 2017 OSA Audit”, see 48 Colo. Law. 49 (May 2019).