What will happen to your property and money after you die? Who will care for your children? These are questions that you can answer by creating a will. A will can give you and your loved ones peace of mind that your wishes will be honored after your death.
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Do I Really Need a Will in Colorado?
You are not required to have a will in Colorado, but a will can make life easier for your loved ones when you die. You need a will if you want to designate which family members or friends will receive specific property from you. If you have children, you can use a will to name the person you want to care for your children. You also can use a will to give money or property to a charity.
If you die without a will in Colorado, a court will follow Colorado’s intestate succession laws to determine who receives your assets. The intestate succession laws include a list of people who can inherit from you. At the top of the list are your spouse and children. If you are not married and do not have children, the court will move down the list until it finds a family member to inherit from you. If you do not have living relatives to inherit from you, your assets will go to the state of Colorado.
Intestate succession gives courts a backup plan for people who do not have wills, but you will have no control over who inherits from you if you rely on intestate succession. It is better to have a will, so you can choose what happens to your assets.
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How To Get a Will in Colorado
You can hire an estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado to create your will, or you can use a will form from a reputable source. Whether you hire an attorney or use a form, you should follow these steps: See full process
Make a list of property and assets
Make a list of everything you own, such as real estate, personal property, money, and financial accounts. Decide which items you will devise through your will and what you will give through a trust or other methods.
A will is not always the best way to transfer money or property at the testator’s death because probate can be expensive and time-consuming. Assets transferred through trusts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts will not go through probate unless they have a defect.
One advantage of wills is that you can make a written list of tangible personal property that you can update from time to time without needing to revise your will. This is a good way to give items with sentimental value to loved ones. To give personal property this way, your will must refer to a written list of personal property. The list must be in your handwriting or signed by you, and it must clearly describe the property and devisees. It cannot include real estate or money.
Decide who your devisees are
Choose a personal representative
Your personal representative will manage your assets and communicate with the probate court about the estate’s administration. During probate, your personal representative will have many duties, including:
- Notifying your devisees and heirs about your death and the probate process
- Paying bills and taxes for your estate
- Distributing money and property to devisees in accordance with your will
- Selling your estate’s property
- Closing your estate when the probate process is over
Choose someone who is responsible and trustworthy to be your personal representative and choose a successor personal representative in case your first choice becomes unavailable. Before naming a personal representative in your will, talk to them and make sure they are willing to serve.
Choose guardians for your minor children
If you have minor children, your will should state who will care for your children and who will manage their money and property. In Colorado, you can name a guardian of the person and a guardian of the estate. The guardian of the person will care for your child and raise them, and the guardian of the estate will manage your child’s money.
When choosing a guardian of the person, you should make sure your choice is willing to care for your child and has a good relationship with your child. They also should be physically capable to care for your child and willing to raise them in a way that matches your values.
When choosing someone to manage your child’s assets, you should choose someone who is trustworthy and responsible with money. It often can be a good decision to have one person raise your child and another person manage their money.
If you have children, you should consider using a revocable living trust to give assets to your child and to name a trustee to manage the assets for your child. A trust is more flexible than a will and gives you more control over the ways money is distributed to your child.
Execute the will properly
After you complete your form, you need to execute it in accordance with Colorado law. Colorado law requires that you sign it or direct another person in your presence to sign for you if you are unable to sign.
Your will must either be signed by two adult witnesses or notarized by a notary public. The witnesses must watch you sign the will, or you must tell them that your signature and the will are yours. Any adult can be a witness to your will in Colorado, but it is wise to avoid using a devisee as a witness.
It is best to sign your will with two witnesses and a notary public present and to have your witnesses sign a sworn statement, called a self-proving affidavit, before the notary public. The self-proving affidavit should say they witnessed your signature, that it was free and voluntary, and that you are of sound mind and not under constraint or undue influence.
If your witnesses sign a self-proving affidavit, you will have a self-proving will. If you do not have a self-proving will, your witnesses may have to go to court when your will is probated.
Store your will in a safe place
You can have only one original will, so you must keep it in a safe place. Some law firms will keep original wills on file for their clients. You also may file it with your local court where it will be sealed and kept confidential. Or you can keep it in a safe place in your home.
You should tell family members and your personal representative where your will is stored so they can access it after you die. Finally, many banks make it difficult for non-owners to access safe deposit boxes, so you should avoid storing your will in one.
Review your will every few years
After you complete your will, you should review it every three to five years to see if it still meets your needs and your family’s needs. It is especially important to review your will following significant life events such as marriage, divorce, or having children. You also can ask a Colorado estate planning attorney to review your will and to discuss your overall estate plan. An attorney’s review is important if you have a growing family or significant assets.
You May Want To Speak With a Lawyer if You:
- Have a past divorce, blended family, or other complex family situation
- Have a high-value estate
- Own a business
- Want to create a special needs trust
- Want legal review of your completed will
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Colorado Will FAQ/People Often Ask
A Colorado last will and testament, also called a will or last will, is a legal document that lets you say what should happen to your property and money after you die. In your will, you also must name a personal representative, sometimes called an executor, to manage and distribute your property. If you have children, you should use your will to name the people you want to care for your children.
Probate is a court process that distributes a person’s money and property after they die. It is a common misconception that a will keeps your property out of probate. In reality, a will is a set of instructions for probate. A probate court will follow your instructions in your will unless they violate the law or are impossible to carry out.
People who do not own real property and have little money or personal property might not need a will. Colorado law allows their family members to use a sworn affidavit to collect their assets without going through probate. However, it can be hard to predict what your financial situation will be when you die, so it is safer to have a will.
As the person who makes a will, you will be called the testator of the will, and the people you give money or property to are called devisees. A devise is any gift of property or money under your will.
Colorado does not require you to hire a lawyer to make a will. If you have a simple family situation and do not have a lot of assets, you can follow the above steps and use one of the easy-to-complete will forms we offer.
FindLaw is not a law firm, and the forms are not a substitute for the advice or services of an attorney. If you have a complicated family dynamic or own significant assets, you should consider asking an estate planning attorney licensed in Colorado for legal advice. An estate planning attorney can review your completed will form or draft a will for you. A lawyer also can discuss other estate planning tools such as a living trust.
Attorneys charge a wide range of fees for wills in Colorado. An estate planning attorney will charge either a flat rate for a will or an hourly rate. Most estate planning attorneys offer estate planning packages that include a will, a trust, powers of attorney, and other documents.
If you use an attorney, you likely will spend at least a few hundred dollars for a will. An entire estate planning package will be significantly more expensive.
You can find free forms online, but you should think twice before using one. These forms may not comply with Colorado law. If you use a form, it is better to purchase one from a reputable source that updates its forms when laws change.
You can revoke or revise your will at any time by burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or otherwise destroying it with the intent to revoke it.
You also can revoke a will by making a new one that states it revokes previous wills. If you want to make a minor change to your will, you can use a codicil, which is an amendment to a will.
If your new will does not say it revokes previous wills, it can revoke a previous will if it is inconsistent with your previous will. If it is not totally inconsistent with the previous will, a court may determine that it is merely a supplement to your will. To avoid confusion, a new will should always state that it revokes previous wills and codicils.
In Colorado, you can make a valid handwritten will if it complies with the typical witness requirements. Handwritten wills should be avoided because heirs and courts may have difficulty reading the handwriting, which could lead to a contested will.
You also can create a valid handwritten will without using witnesses or a notary if the material portions of the will and your signature are in your handwriting. This is called a holographic will. Even though Colorado allows holographic wills, you should avoid using one unless you are facing imminent death and do not have access to witnesses.
In 2021, Colorado passed a law that allows people to make a valid electronic will. An electronic will has the same witness and signature requirements as a traditional will, but it can be signed electronically without printing it out.
Your witnesses and the notary public do not need to be physically present but must be in your electronic presence. The law defines electronic presence as “the relationship of two or more individuals in different locations communicating in real time to the same extent as if the individuals were physically present in the same location.”
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