Most people in Colorado likely do not look forward to engaging in the estate planning process. Even still, many also assume that all local residents who pass on leave behind a will dictating the dispersal of their assets. Yet that is not the case.
Indeed, according to information shared by the American Association of Retired Persons, over 60% of American adults do not have a will. Some might think that if they do not prepare a will, they may avoid offending any potential beneficiaries with their last wishes (assuming instead that the distribution of their estates falls to their heirs to determine).
What happens if one dies without a will?
Unfortunately, there is no merit in such an assumption. Rather, the state determines the distribution of an estate of one who dies intestate (without a will). Section 15-11-102 of Colorado’s Revised Statutes says that in such a case, if a decedent leaves behind a spouse, the spouse receives their entire estate if they do not also have any surviving lineal descendants (of if their surviving descendants are also the descendants of the spouse). The spouse’s interest reduces to the following amounts in each of the cases detailed below:
- The first $150,000 plus one-half of the remaining estate assets if one or more of the decedent’s descendants are not the descendants of the spouse
- The first $225,000 plus one-half of the remaining assets if the spouse has descendants who are not also descendants of the decedent
- The first $300,000 plus three-fourths of the remaining assets if the decedent leaves behind surviving parents (but no descendants).
Subsequent order of descent
If an intestate decedent does not have a spouse, their assets would then pass on to their descendants, then to their parents, then to their siblings (and their descendants), then to their maternal and paternal kindred.