As we all know, planning for the future is an important step. Drafting and implementing a comprehensive estate plan makes it clear to those you leave behind what your wishes are for your assets. In your Will, you may dictate specifically that particular friends and loved ones receive particular pieces of jewelry, art, firearms, and real estate. If you do not have a valid Will at the time of your death, it means you have died “intestate.” When a person dies intestate, that means that the assets of your estate will be distributed according to the applicable laws of intestacy in the State of Colorado.
Every state, including Colorado, has a set of laws that dictate how your assets will be distributed if you die without a Will. In Colorado, such statutes are located at § 15-11-101, et seq. How your estate will be distributed depends largely upon factors such as (i) whether you were married at the time of your death; and (ii) whether you left children behind. For example, if you were married and had living children with your spouse at the time of your death, and you and your spouse have no other children, then your spouse will inherit all of your assets. However, if you have children from another relationship, your spouse will only inherit a portion of your overall estate, with the remainder to be distributed among your children. The same rule applies if your spouse has children from a prior relationship. The portion your spouse would otherwise inherit would vary depending upon which spouse had children from a prior relationship. Intestacy becomes even more complicated when your parents are still living at the time of your death. Again, your spouse would inherit a portion of your overall estate, with the the remainder going to your surviving parents.
There are several reasons why dying intestate is not a good idea for an overall estate plan. The first reason is that your assets will be distributed strictly pursuant to the law. In other words, the law does not make any provision for exceptions if, for example, you are estranged from your parents or your adult children. The assets will go to those relatives, even if you had not spoken to them in years. Another reason why dying intestate is not recommended is because if you have substantial assets, such assets would have to pass through probate, which could result in substantial estate taxes. It could also mean your friends and family are tied up in probate proceedings for months or years. A good estate plan can include instruments such as a trust, which would allow your assets to pass outside of probate, smoothing the path for your beneficiaries.
We have extensive experience assisting our clients in making an estate plan that meets their needs. Call us today for a consultation to talk about your goals and what we can do to help you reach them.