Most people know that they should have a will, but many don't know what a will is and how it works.
Here’s a quick checklist for making a will in Colorado:
A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:
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.
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 if you want to disinherit your spouse, you should talk with an attorney. Nolo's will-making products tell you when it's wise to seek a lawyer's advice.
To make a will in Colorado, you must be:
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. Ann. § 15-11-602.
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 (Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-11-502), but they are usually not a good idea.
To finalize your will in Colorado:
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. Ann. § 15-11-502.
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. Ann. § 15-11-502.
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. Ann. § 15-11-502.
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. Ann. § 15-11-504.
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.
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. Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 15-11-804. If you have any concerns about the effects of divorce on your will, see an estate planning attorney for help.
In 2021, Colorado enacted the "Colorado Uniform Electronic Wills Act" that lays out the requirements for making a valid electronic will. Under this law, you can make the will, sign it, and have it witnessed without ever printing it out. Your witnesses can appear electronically. Your e-will can be made self-proving without cumbersome rules surrounding custodianship. (Colo Rev Stat Ann § 15-12-1508.)
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.