What Becomes of an Estate if Spouses Die Within Days of Each Other?

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When spouses in Colorado pass away within days of each other, the overlapping deaths can create a complicated situation for their family and other inheritors of their estate. The situation can add confusion and stress to an already emotionally charged time. Here’s what you can expect under these circumstances.

 Issues Arising When Spouses Die at the Same Time

Several potential issues may arise when spouses die in quick succession. One is that, under many circumstances, the law will treat each spouse as though they predeceased the other, meaning that jointly owned assets that would have automatically transferred to the surviving spouse could be in limbo. That can complicate the distribution of assets, particularly if both spouses have different heirs or beneficiaries in their wills.

Additionally, simultaneous deaths can complicate the execution of the couple’s estate plans. Without one spouse surviving the other, provisions that depend on sequential deaths (such as using marital deductions in tax planning) cannot be implemented as intended. That could result in estate tax issues or unintended beneficiaries receiving assets.

Executors and trustees may face increased scrutiny and legal challenges from heirs who might dispute the wills or the interpretation of unclear or outdated estate plans.

Navigating the Probate Process After Dual Spousal Deaths

When two spouses die at the same time or within a short period — for example, from injuries in a car accident or plane crash — the probate process can become quite complex. Under § 15-17-102 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, someone must survive their spouse by 120 hours (five days) to inherit from them. In other words, if the spouses’ deaths happened within five days of each other, the law says their contingent beneficiaries and heirs must divide the estate as if each spouse predeceased the other.

That means assets are distributed according to each person’s will or the state’s intestate laws if there is no will. As this may lead to conflicting instructions, the courts may then determine how to divide the estate among the surviving heirs.

How Our Lawyers Help Families Deal with Simultaneous Spousal Deaths

At Peakstone Law Group, we understand how overwhelming it can be to deal with the simultaneous death or near-simultaneous death of spouses. We’re here to support you through this challenging time.

We can examine the wills and other estate documents and determine how Colorado’s survivorship laws apply to them. If there are disputes among heirs, we work to mediate and resolve these conflicts fairly and efficiently. Our goal is to make probate as smooth as possible by handling all the legal details, allowing you to focus on your family.

Contact Our Colorado Estate Planning Attorneys for More Information

At Peakstone Law Group, we understand the stress and unique legal challenges of these situations. Our experienced attorneys are here to guide you through the probate process and answer your questions about estate succession in Colorado. We’re here to make sure your family’s estate is handled correctly and with care.

Contact us today for a confidential consultation with an experienced estate administration attorney.