Intestate Succession in Colorado

What happens if you die without a will? Learn about intestacy in Colorado

Related Ads

Need Professional Help? Talk to a Lawyer

Enter Your Zip Code to Connect with a Lawyer Serving Your Area

searchbox small

If you die without a will in Colorado, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state “intestate succession” laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Colorado.

Which Assets Pass by Intestate Succession

Only assets that would have passed through your will are affected by intestate succession laws. Usually, that includes only assets that you own alone, in your own name.

Many valuable assets don’t go through your will, and aren’t affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples: 

  • property you’ve transferred to a living trust
  • life insurance proceeds
  • funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account
  • securities held in a transfer-on-death account
  • payable-on-death bank accounts
  • real estate held by transfer-on-death or beneficiary deed, or
  • property you own with someone else in joint tenancy.

These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will.

To learn more about these types of assets, go to the How to Avoid Probate section of Nolo.com or read about Avoiding Probate in Colorado.

Who Gets What in Colorado?

Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here’s a quick overview:

If you die with: here’s what happens:
  • children but no spouse
  • children inherit everything
  • spouse but no descendants
  • spouse inherits everything
  • spouse and descendants from you and that spouse, and the spouse has no other descendants
  • spouse inherits everything
  • spouse and descendants from you and that spouse, and the spouse has descendants from another relationship
  • spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance
  • your descendants inherit everything else
  • spouse and adult descendants from you and someone other than that spouse
  • spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance
  • descendants inherit everything else
  • spouse and at least one minor descendant from you and someone other than that spouse
  • spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property
  • descendants inherit everything else
  • spouse and parents
  • spouse inherits the first $200,000 of your intestate property, plus 3/4 of the balance
  • parents inherit remaining intestate property
  • parents but no spouse or descendants
  • parents inherit everything
  • siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents
  • siblings inherit everything
  •  

    The Spouse’s Share in Colorado

    In Colorado, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living parents or descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you don’t, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property. If you do, they and your spouse will share your intestate property as follows:

    If you die with parents but no descendants. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $200,000 of your intestate property, plus 3/4 of the balance.

    Example: Gerry is married to Joe, and her father is still alive. Gerry owns a house in joint tenancy with Joe, and Joe is also the named beneficiary of Gerry’s retirement account. When Gerry dies, Joe automatically inherits the house and any remaining retirement funds; those things are not intestate property. Because Gerry has significant additional property that would have passed under a will, Joe inherits $200,000 worth of that property plus 3/4 of everything else. The remaining 1/4 of the intestate property goes to Gerry’s father.

    If you die with children or other descendants from you and the surviving spouse, and your surviving spouse has no descendants from previous relationships. Your surviving spouse inherits all of your intestate property.

    If you die with children or other descendants from you and the surviving spouse, and your surviving spouse has other descendants from previous relationships. Your surviving spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance.

    Example: Bill is married to Karen, and they have two grown children. Karen also has a son from a previous marriage. Bill and Karen own a large bank account in joint tenancy, and Bill took out a life insurance policy naming Karen as the beneficiary. When Bill dies, Karen receives the life insurance policy proceeds and inherits the bank account outright. Bill also owns a good deal of other property that would have passed under a will, so Karen inherits $150,000 worth of that property plus half of everything else. The remaining half of Bill’s intestate property goes to Bill’s and Karen’s two children.

    If you die with adult descendants who are not the descendants of your surviving spouse. Your spouse inherits the first $100,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance.

    If you die with at least one minor descendant who is not the descendant of your surviving spouse. Your spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property.

    Example: Barrett is married to Jed and also has a 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Barrett owns a house in joint tenancy with Jed, plus $200,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if Barrett had made one. When Barrett dies, Jed inherits the house outright and $100,000 worth of Barrett’s property. Barrett’s daughter inherits the remaining $100,000 share of Barrett’s property.

    Children’s Shares in Colorado

    If you die without a will in Colorado, your children will receive an “intestate share” of your property. The size of each child’s share depends on how many children you have and whether or not you are married. (See the table above.)

    For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Colorado must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it’s not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.

    • Adopted children. Children you legally adopted will receive an intestate share, just as your biological children do.
    • Foster children and stepchildren. Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted will not automatically receive a share.
    • Children placed for adoption. Children you placed for adoption and who were legally adopted by another family will not receive a share. However, if your biological children were adopted by your spouse, that won’t affect their intestate inheritance.
    • Posthumous children. Children conceived by you but not born before your death will receive a share.
    • Children born outside of marriage. If you were not married to your children’s mother when she gave birth to them, they may receive a share of your estate if the court has established that you are in fact the children’s father.
    • Children born during your marriage. Any child born to your wife during your marriage is assumed to be your child and will receive a share of your estate.
    • Grandchildren. Your grandchildren will receive a share only if their parent (your child) has died before you do.

    If you want to read the law, Colorado Revised Statutes §§ 15-11-115 to 15-11-122 cover parent-child relationships.

    This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney. 

    by: , J.D.

    Create Your Estate Plan

    WillMaker

    Get Started with Quicken WillMaker Plus!

    Everything you need to create a complete estate plan:

    Write a legally valid will

    Avoid probate with Nolo's Living Trust

    Create a health care directive

    Create a durable power of attorney

    Prepare executor documents

    Save on attorneys fees

    Find an Estate Planning Lawyer

    Need professional help?
    Enter your zip code to find an estate planning lawyer. (e.g., 10110)
    LA-NOLO5:DRU.1.6.1.20140626.27175