What Happens To My Estate if I Don’t Have A Will?

The question is asked oftentimes what happens if I don’t have a will and I don’t have other documents to distribute my estate at my death. Well, the question is best answered initially by saying it’s not going to go to the State of Colorado generally speaking if you have any heirs or ancestors who survive you. Now exactly how your estate will go will depend on your family structure, and by that I’m talking about whether you’re married, whether it’s a first marriage or second marriage or third marriage, whether you have children or not. Then there are a number of statutes that can come into play to affect the succession of your estate, and I’ll explain a little more.

    For example, if it’s a first marriage with children from that first marriage and you die without a will, you as the decedent, your estate will pass to your surviving spouse under current Colorado law. Now interestingly, historically that wasn’t always the case, such that back prior to 1974, when you died without a will half would go to your spouse and half would go to your children. When I make these statements you have the appreciate the law is ever-changing, and thus you can’t be assured of what will happen because you don’t know what the laws will be in effect at your death.

    One thing’s for certain is if you do have heirs and children or ancestors it is not going to the State of Colorado, which is a common misbelief. In addition, what’s happened is the legislature has set up an estate plan for you. If you die without a will then the legislature is going to tell your family how your estate goes, which may or may not be consistent with your wishes. Thus you might want to consider having a will to ensure that your wishes are carried out.

    In addition to what the legislature has set up as your estate, there are other people who may be interested in your estate such as creditors. Then there are things called family and exempt property allowances which can come into play to erode that estate that you have for the benefit of those individuals such as your spouse or children who are entitled to those allowances. Rather than leave it to chance you might want to consider a will or at least explore that possibility. We’re happy here at Miller and Steiert to assist you in determining whether you want to have a will or some other plan to effectuate your estate planning objectives

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