Making a Will in Colorado

Learn how to make a will in Colorado and what can happen if you don't.

Updated by , Attorney · University of Arkansas School of Law

Steps to Create a Will in Colorado

Here's a quick checklist for making a will in Colorado:

  1. Decide what property to include in your will.
  2. Decide who will inherit your property.
  3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.
  4. Choose a guardian for your children.
  5. Choose someone to manage children's property.
  6. Make your will.
  7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.
  8. Store your will safely.

Why Should I Make a Colorado Will?

A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:

  • leave your property to people or organizations
  • name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • name a trusted person to manage property you leave to minor children, and
  • name a personal representative, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens If I Don't Have a Will?

In Colorado, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Colorado's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Colorado?

No. You can make your own will in Colorado, using Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or you have especially complicated goals, you should talk with an attorney. See Do I Need an Attorney to Make My Estate Plan?

What Are the Requirements for Making a Will in Colorado?

To make a will in Colorado, you must be:

  • at least 18 years old
  • of sound mind.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-501 (2023).)

In Colorado, your will affects property you own at the time of your death, and it can also affect property your estate acquires after your death. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-602 (2023).)

Your will must be in writing. However, Colorado does allow electronic wills ("Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?," below.). So the "writing" may be a hard copy or an electronic copy, if you fulfill the necessary requirements. Colorado does permit handwritten wills, but they are usually not a good idea. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-502 (2023).)

How Do I Sign My Colorado Will?

To finalize your will in Colorado:

  • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses who sign your will, or
  • you must acknowledge your will in front of a notary. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-502 (2023).)

If you use witnesses, they must sign your will within a reasonable time after seeing you sign or acknowledge your will. They can sign before or after your death. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-502 (2023).)

Holographic (handwritten) wills do not require witnesses. To make a holographic will, the signature and material provisions must be in your own handwriting. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-502 (2023).)

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

No, in Colorado, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal if you have two witnesses sign it. However, if you don't want to use witnesses, you can acknowledge it in front of a notary. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-502 (2023).)

Additionally, Colorado allows you to make your will "self-proving" and you'll need to go to a notary if you want to do that. A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.

To make your will self-proving you and your witnesses will go to the notary and sign an affidavit that proves who you are and that each of you knew you were signing the will. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-504 (2023).)

Should My Will Name a Personal Representative?

Yes. In Colorado, you can use your will to name a personal representative who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust produces a letter to your personal representative that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name a personal representative, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

In Colorado, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:

  • burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying all or part of the will with the intent to revoke it.
  • making a new will that has contradictory terms to your previous will. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-507 (2023).)

If you need to make changes to your will, it's best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).

If you and your spouse divorce (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal), Colorado law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or names your spouse to be your executor. This rule does not apply if you specifically state in your will (or divorce decree) that divorce should not affect the provisions in your will. If you have any concerns about the effects of divorce on your will, see an estate planning attorney for help. (Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-804 (2023).)

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

Colorado is one of a handful of states that technically allows electronic wills (e-wills). The requirements for making a valid e-will can be elaborate, and the concept is still fairly new. As a result, e-wills are still not commonplace. For more details on Colorado's specific approach to e-wills, see What Is an Electronic Will?

Where Can I Find Colorado's Laws About Making Wills?

You can find Colorado's laws about making wills here: Colorado Revised Statutes Title 15 Probate, Trusts, and Fiduciaries Colorado Probate Code Article 11 Intestate Succession and Wills Part 5 Wills and Will Contracts and Custody and Deposit of Wills.

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