If you die without a will, your property goes where the state tells it to go. Being will-less is called being “intestate.” Each state has its own intestacy statutes that determine what happens to your estate when you have no will.
However, not all property is covered by these statutes (or included in a will if you have one). This property will transfer to whoever you name as beneficiary or to a surviving co-owner. This includes proceeds from a life insurance policy, property you have already transferred to a trust, retirement account funds, such as 401(k)s or IRAs, property owned in joint tenancy with someone else, real estate held by beneficiary deed or by transfer-on-death, payable-on-death bank accounts, and securities held in a transfer-on-death account.
For the remaining property that would have been included in a will, the intestacy statutes direct the property where to go, according to family relationships. Each state has its own scheme, though many states have similar statutes. Your property will have to go through the probate process, but the statutes, instead of a will, will determine where the property goes. Someone, probably your spouse, will be named personal representative by the court and will be in charge of the probate estate.
If you die without a will in Colorado, the Colorado intestacy statutes direct that your property go as follows:
- If you die with children but no spouse, your children inherit everything.
- If you have a spouse but no descendants, your spouse inherits everything.
- If you die with a spouse and all of your descendants are from you and that spouse, and the spouse has descendants from another relationship, the spouse inherits the first $225,000 of your intestate property, plus ½ of the balance. Your descendants inherit everything else.
- If you die with a spouse and descendants from you and someone other than that spouse, your spouse inherits the first $150,000 of your intestate property plus ½ of the balance. Your descendants inherit everything else.
- If you die with a spouse and parents, but no descendants, your spouse inherits the first $300,000 of your intestate property, plus ¾ of the balance. Your parents inherit the rest.
- If you die with siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents, your siblings inherit everything.
- If you die intestate and have no family, your property will “escheat” (go to) the state. This is very unlikely as the statutes are designed to give your property to family members, no matter how remote from you. For example, nieces, nephews, or cousins will inherit if you have no spouse, children, grandchildren, or parents.
- This is a very simplified overview of the Colorado intestacy statutes (which can be found at Colorado Revised Statutes 15-11-101 through 15-11-214.) If you want your property to be divided in a way different from what the state has determined, it’s simple: have a will drafted.
You will also want to plan for your possible incapacity. Your attorney will not only write a will (and trust if necessary), but she will also provide you with powers of attorney that will allow your surviving relatives to handle your property and help with your medical care if you are incapacitated.
To learn how Andersen Law PC can protect you and your assets with wills and estate planning, contact us today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 720-922-3880.
Article by Annette Bybee / Graphic by Magpie Media