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Navigating Colorado Inheritance Laws: A Comprehensive Guide by Duncan Legal, PC


Gain an in-depth understanding of Colorado inheritance laws, from intestate succession to probate procedures, with insights from Duncan Legal, PC. Schedule a call with us today.

Colorado’s Inheritance Laws

Inheritance laws refer to the body of rules and regulations that govern the process through which a deceased’s assets pass to their heirs or those entitled. The specifics of these laws vary with each state, but generally, they cover issues such as payment of inheritance tax and who inherits a deceased (decedent) person’s property, especially when the decedent died intestate (left no will).

The provisions of a state’s inheritance laws could cause hardship for a deceased’s heirs or make it difficult to access their inheritance. Some or most of those laws can be bypassed if the deceased takes certain steps to protect their loved ones during their lifetime. However, to take those steps, one must first be aware of the provisions of the law and how it would affect the legacy they wish to leave their loved ones.

If you’re a Colorado resident and you have assets that you’d love your loved ones to inherit, it is important that you’re aware of Colorado’s inheritance laws and how they may apply to your unique circumstances.

An estate planning attorney from Duncan Legal, PC, can provide personalized guidance to help you understand the law better. In the meantime, please read on for a quick overview of Colorado’s inheritance laws to help you take relevant steps to secure your assets for your successors.

The Inheritance Laws in Colorado

Colorado’s inheritance laws comprise several statutes governing specific areas of the succession process that apply when a Colorado resident dies. They include the following:

Colorado’s Intestate Succession Laws

Under Colorado law, every individual over 18 can make a will in writing detailing how their assets will be distributed among their chosen beneficiaries. In the absence of a will, the deceased is said to be intestate, and their estate will be distributed according to Colorado’s intestate succession laws.

Who Gets What Under Intestate Succession in Colorado?

Under Colorado intestacy laws, a person’s assets are inherited by their heirs, usually their family members, if they died without leaving a will. However, family relationships and dynamics could be complex, and matters of succession in such cases could be difficult to determine. As such, the law creates a list of succession based on multiple scenarios that could apply to a deceased’s surviving relatives. 

 Some of the different scenarios are summarized below.

The Deceased Is Survived by Their Children

If the deceased has living children but no spouse, children will inherit the entire estate.

Any child born within the deceased’s marriage is deemed their biological offspring unless contrary proof exists. Adopted children are considered the same as biological children.

The Deceased Is Survived by Their Spouse 

The spouse inherits everything if the deceased has a spouse but no descendants, including children or grandchildren.

The Deceased Is Survived by Both a Spouse and Children

If the deceased and their spouse had children together, and the deceased did not have other children with a third party, the spouse would inherit all their assets.

But if the deceased had children from a previous marriage or with someone other than their spouse and had no children or descendants with the spouse, the spouse would inherit the first $150,000 of the assets and half or whatever is left after the deduction. The children and descendants will inherit everything else.

Suppose the deceased’s surviving spouse had children and descendants with someone else outside the marriage and also had children/descendants with the deceased spouse. In such cases, the surviving spouse inherits the first $225,000 of the deceased assets and half of whatever is left after the initial deduction. The deceased’s descendants inherit the rest.

The Deceased Is Survived by Their Parents and a Spouse

If the deceased is survived only by their spouse and parents, the spouse will inherit the first $300,000 of the intestate property and three-quarters (¾) of the balance. The parents will inherit the rest.

The Deceased Is Survived by Their Parents/Siblings

If the deceased is survived by their parents alone, the parents would inherit the entire estate.

Siblings inherit the entire estate if a person dies without a surviving spouse, children, or parents. In the absence of a family member to inherit, the assets become property of the state.

If you have no preferences as to how your assets should be distributed after you die, then it’s okay to sit back and let the intestate succession laws run their course. But if you have specific wishes about who gets what from your property, then it is important to take proactive steps immediately to ensure that the law does not apply.

Probate  Rules

The assets of a deceased person are distributed to their named beneficiaries in a will or their heirs as determined by the above intestate succession laws through the probate process.

During the process, the probate court with jurisdiction over the deceased’s estate (usually where the deceased last resided) would appoint a personal representative to administer the estate and oversee the distribution of the estate to those entitled.

The process is compulsory for estates valued above $50,000. Estates below that monetary limit and without real estate are known as small estates. The beneficiaries of such estates can collect the deceased’s assets after swearing to an affidavit.

Probate in Colorado is complex and can be difficult to navigate. It can last for at least six months. While the process is ongoing, the deceased’s heirs may be unable to access their inheritance, which could cause significant hardship.

You can help your loved ones bypass the stressful probate process by Creating a Living Will in Colorado or preparing an estate plan that includes similar legal instruments. An estate planning lawyer in Colorado can help you learn how.

Debt Payment During the Probate Process 

One of the duties of a personal representative during the probate process is to pay off any debts owed by the decedent. The distribution of assets cannot take place until this step is completed. This means that if a decedent had any debts, their beneficiaries could only inherit the portion of the estate left after all debts had been paid off.

This could affect the value of the inheritance they receive, and in extreme cases, there may be no inheritance left after this point.

If you belong to a profession or business that runs on credit transactions, you need to take steps to protect your assets from your creditors to benefit your loved ones. An Estate Planning Attorney in Centennial can help you explore your asset protection options and secure your assets from future creditor claims through the estate planning process.

Navigate Colorado’s Inheritance Laws With Help From an Estate Planning Lawyer at Duncan Legal, PC

Colorado’s inheritance laws are complex, and a strict application of the laws to your estate could make it difficult for your family members and loved ones to access the assets you’ve left them when you’re no longer around. You can help keep things simple by setting up a comprehensive estate plan that allows for the seamless transfer of assets to your beneficiaries and excludes the application of the state’s inheritance laws.

 At Duncan Legal, PC, I can offer you a comprehensive suite of services for Estate Planning in Colorado to help you achieve your goals.

I am passionate about ensuring my clients’ wishes are fulfilled, and their loved ones are protected in their absence. You can always count on me to advocate for your best interests and help bring your plans to fruition.

So, if you have more questions about Colorado’s inheritance laws or want to learn more about your estate planning options, call today to learn more.

Flat-fee options are available for wills, trusts and probate:

(303) 394-2358