Common questions about wills and estate planning – Colorado law

Posted by: Mar 02, 2014By Brian Stutheit

1. What happens if I die without a last will?
If you do not make a last will, Colorado law will determine who gets your property. This process is called “intestate succession.” Your property would first be divided between your spouse and your children. If you are not married and have no children, your property would be distributed to your closest living relatives. It is only where someone dies without living relatives that the property would go to the state. One reason to write a will is to disinherit someone who might otherwise inherit property under the intestate succession laws.

2.   Can I disinherit someone?
You can leave almost anyone out of your last will. Spouses cannot be disinherited, unless an enforceable prenuptial or post marriage agreement has been signed. It is wise to ask an attorney for advice about inheritance when you are about to enter into a second marriage, but have children from a prior marriage whom you wish to protect.  Otherwise, your new in-laws rather than your children might someday have your property. If you wish to disinherit one of your children or to give one child less than another, you should clearly state that intention in a last will. You do not need to pay someone you plan to disinherit something so they will go away. See our January 29, 2014 blog entitled “Common Law Marriage and Estates”

3.  How I should protect my estate for my young children?
If you are leaving property to minor children, consider transferring the property to them through a testamentary trust.  Testamentary means created by will.  A testamentary trust is funded when you die, and is used to hold property for someone else’s benefit. The trustee is appointed in your will.  For instance, rather than leave $100,000 to your 12-year-old child, you could have the property placed “in trust” and name someone trustee to take care of that property for your child until certain conditions are met, such as, your child reaches a certain age, or needs money for college. Many parents make the testamentary trustee a beneficiary of their life insurance or retirement plans.