Colorado Inheritance Laws

Are you looking to secure your legacy and ensure your loved ones are cared for after you pass away? At Peakstone Law Group, our attorneys have ample experience helping individuals and families understand Colorado estate planning regulations. From drafting detailed wills to managing estate taxes and other estate administration issues, we take a proactive, personalized approach to these cases. We aim to simplify the legal process for you, making it straightforward and stress-free.

Our team can provide you with the knowledge and support needed to make sound decisions about your estate. Contact us today to discuss your estate planning needs and how we can help you prepare for the future with a free consultation.

Understanding Colorado Inheritance Laws

When someone in Colorado passes away, what happens to their property is determined by whether they have a valid will. A will specifies how they want their assets distributed. When legally valid, the document directs who inherits assets ranging from financial accounts to personal belongings. The court system oversees this process, called probate, to ensure the distribution of the deceased’s beneficiaries follows the terms of the will.

On the other hand, if someone dies without a will – known as dying intestate – the laws concerning intestate succession in Colorado determine who gets the deceased’s assets. Generally, this means the property goes to close family members like spouses and children, following a set legal formula. It can sometimes lead to unexpected outcomes that might not align with what the deceased wanted. That’s why having a will is so vital – it puts you in control of your estate’s future.

Does Colorado Have an Inheritance Tax or Estate Tax? 

An inheritance tax and estate tax are two types of taxes that may affect an estate after someone passes away. Beneficiaries pay an inheritance tax when they inherit property from someone who died. The amount is based on the value of the assets received. In contrast, the estate pays an estate tax before the assets go to the deceased’s beneficiaries. It is based on the total value of the deceased’s assets.

In Colorado, residents do not have to worry about state inheritance or estate taxes. Colorado effectively has neither. However, for larger estates, federal estate taxes might still apply. As of 2024, the IRS requires estates valued over $13,610,000 to pay a federal estate tax, with the rate depending on the overall size of the estate. Most families will find that their estates fall below this threshold, but those with significant assets must plan wisely to potentially reduce this tax burden.

The Probate Process Under Colorado Inheritance Law 

The Colorado probate process involves several stages: 

  • Appointment of a personal representative – When a Colorado resident passes away, the court appoints a personal representative (also known as an executor) to handle the deceased’s estate unless the deceased named a personal representative in their will. The personal representative is responsible for managing the estate’s affairs.
  • Gathering assets—The personal representative gathers all the deceased’s assets. That includes determining whether the assets are probate assets (requiring court oversight) or non-probate assets (transferred directly to beneficiaries without court involvement).
  • Paying debts and final expenses – The personal representative must pay the estate’s debts, including any taxes and final expenses, out of the estate’s assets.
  • Distributing remaining assets – After debts and expenses are settled, the remaining assets go to the deceased’s heirs or named beneficiaries as specified in their will. If there is no will, assets are distributed according to Colorado intestate succession laws.
  • Closing the estate – The estate can be closed formally, informally, or administratively, depending on whether all actions have been completed and whether there are any disputes among the heirs or beneficiaries.

Spouses and Colorado Inheritance Law

If someone dies in Colorado with a valid will in effect, their spouse inherits whatever portion of their estate they decided to award in their will. If the will attempts to disinherit the spouse by awarding them nothing in the will, the surviving spouse can request an elective share under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-202. The spouse’s elective share under the statute typically amounts to half of the couple’s marital property but can be increased under certain circumstances.

When someone dies without a valid will, Colorado’s estate distribution rules determine what portion of the deceased’s assets they receive. The critical factor in these cases is how many eligible beneficiaries the deceased had and their relation to the deceased.

For instance, if someone dies without a will and they had a spouse but no children, the surviving spouse gets the entire estate. If there’s a surviving spouse and surviving children, the surviving spouse still gets everything, assuming the surviving spouse is also the other parent of the surviving children. 

There are also specific rules for cases involving blended families, surviving parents, surviving siblings, and so on. Our Colorado inheritance lawyers can go over these rules with you.

What Rights Does a Child Have When a Parent Dies Intestate in Colorado? 

When a parent dies in Colorado without a will, the critical factor in whether their surviving children – including adopted children – inherit anything from their estate is whether other eligible beneficiaries exist. For instance, if a parent dies and has a surviving spouse and children, the surviving spouse inherits everything. However, children from prior relationships have certain inheritance rights under Colorado intestate succession laws, though surviving spouses still get the larger portion of the estate. We can explain your inheritance rights under Colorado intestate succession law if your parent died without a will.

Non-Probate Colorado Inheritances 

Certain assets do not have to go through the probate process in Colorado, meaning the assets pass directly to the deceased’s heirs, avoiding probate and without court approval or oversight. Non-probate assets in Colorado may include: 

  • Assets held in a trust
  • Jointly owned assets
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Retirement accounts
  • Bank accounts with payable on death (POD) designations
  • Assets with transfer on death (TOD) designations

Why You Need Our Colorado Inheritance Attorneys 

Colorado’s inheritance laws can be daunting, whether you’re planning your estate, trying to understand your inheritance rights, or are involved in an inheritance dispute.

At Peakstone Law Group, we bring clarity to these intricate processes. Our knowledgeable attorneys can guide you through the estate planning process, including drafting your will, setting up trusts, and distributing your assets according to your wishes. If you’re facing inheritance disputes or have questions about your rights as a beneficiary, our team provides dedicated support and advocacy to protect your interests. We’re here to help simplify these complex legal processes.

Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.