Colorado Surviving Spouse Rights

Middle aged retired couple signing a contract

Have you recently lost your spouse? If so, you should know your rights to inherit from their estate under Colorado law.

Legal Rights of Surviving Spouses in Colorado

Under Colorado inheritance laws, you may inherit from your spouse’s estate in the following manners.

Intestate Rights

Colorado intestate succession laws determine a surviving spouse’s inheritance rights when their spouse dies without a will. A surviving spouse may inherit their deceased spouse’s entire estate if the decedent leaves no surviving descendant. They may also do so if the deceased spouse shares all their surviving descendants with their surviving spouse and the surviving spouse has no other descendant who survives the deceased. 

 In other circumstances, a surviving spouse will inherit part of a deceased spouse’s estate, with the amount of inheritance depending on the makeup of the family as follows:

  • $300,000 plus three-fourths of the balance of the estate – No descendant of the deceased spouse survives, but the deceased has a surviving parent.
  • $225,000 plus one-half of the balance of the deceased spouse’s estate – The deceased spouse shares all their surviving descendants with their surviving spouse, and the surviving spouse has other surviving descendants.
  • $150,000 plus one-half of the balance of the decedent’s estate – The decedent has one or more surviving descendants they do not share with their surviving spouse.

The base dollar amounts may adjust annually to account for inflation.  

Elective Share

When someone dies with a will, their surviving spouse can claim an elective share equal to one-half of the value of the marital property portion of the decedent’s augmented estate. The augmented estate includes the total value of the probate estate plus specific non-probate transfers to parties other than the surviving spouse, minus funeral and burial expenses and estate administration costs. The value of the marital property portion will depend on the length of the marriage, ranging from 10 percent after one year of marriage to 100 percent after 10 years of marriage. 

Family Allowance

A surviving spouse may have the right to file a claim against their deceased spouse’s estate for a family allowance, which provides a surviving spouse a reasonable living allowance during estate administration. 

Exempt Property 

Surviving spouses may claim up to $30,000 in cash (this limit may increase annually to reflect inflation) as exempt property from their deceased spouse’s estate.

Homestead Exemption 

Colorado law also recognizes a homestead exemption in favor of a surviving spouse, although the exemption does not constitute an allowance for the spouse.

Estate Planning Strategies for Protecting Surviving Spouse Rights 

Married couples have other estate planning strategies that can help protect each spouse’s rights when their loved one passes away, including: 

  • Sweetheart will or trust – A sweetheart will or trust allows a person to leave their entire estate to their spouse. 
  • Tenancies by the entirety – Couples may own titled property as a tenancy by the entirety, which allows the surviving spouse to assume sole ownership upon the death of their spouse. 
  • Beneficiary of transfer-on-death and pay-on-death designations – Spouses may also include a beneficiary designation on bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and retirement accounts or life insurance policies that pay funds or benefits directly to their surviving spouse without going through the estate. The surviving spouse can generally access the funds in a joint bank account without any involvement in the estate.

Reach Out to Our Estate Planning Lawyers for a Free Consultation

Do you have questions about your spousal inheritance rights in Colorado? Contact Peakstone Law Group today for a free, no-obligation consultation to learn more about the probate process for surviving spouses and what assets you might inherit from your loved one’s estate.