Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Colorado wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will), to create valid Colorado wills and to assign a person (called the executor in most states) to administer a Colorado last will and testament after the death of the testator.
Basic Requirements for a Colorado Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind (capable of reasoning and making decisions).
Signature: A Colorado last will and testament must be signed by the testator or in the testator's name by some other individual in the testator's presence and by the testator's direction.
Witnesses: A will must be signed by at least two individuals, before or after the testator's death, after he or she has witnessed either the testator's signing of the will or the testator's acknowledgment of that signature or acknowledgment of the will.
Beneficiaries: A Colorado last will and testament may make a disposition of property to any person.
Other types of recognized wills:
Holographic Wills: A holographic will is one that is handwritten by the testator. Although Colorado law recognizes a handwritten will, state laws can be very particular regarding the construction of handwritten wills.
Writing intended as wills: In some circumstances, a writing that does not meet the formal legal requirements of a will may be recognized by Colorado laws.
Distribution of Property:
A will is a legal document created by you to determine how your property, known as your estate, is distributed after your death. Your estate consists of assets and property including bank accounts, homes, land, furniture, automobiles, and securities (stocks and bonds). In general, Colorado laws allow you to dispose of your property as you wish.
Other Purposes of Wills:
Our Colorado wills form may be used to designate a guardian for any minor children.
Our Colorado wills form may also be used to name an executor (also called a personal representative) to handle a testator's property and affairs from the time of death until an estate is settled.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
Property owned in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship automatically passes onto the surviving owner.
Property that has a named beneficiary (as in life insurance policies) can not be willed away.
Exempt property: the decedent's surviving spouse is entitled to $26,000 in cash or property from the estate. If there is no surviving spouse, the decedent's children are entitled to share the same value.
Providing for Pets
Under applicable Colorado state laws, a trust for the care of your pets and their offspring is valid provided that it is less than 21 years in duration. The trust allows you to assign a caretaker for your pet(s) after your death to ensure proper care of your pet(s).
The testator should create a pour-over provision in the will according to Colorado state laws to devise the pet to a trustee. LegalZoom's Colorado wills form gives you the choice of providing for your pet in this manner.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Colorado Will and Testament
A Colorado will and testament may be changed whenever the testator desires.
A Colorado will and testament can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be executed in accordance with Colorado laws.
Revoking a Colorado Will and Testament
A Colorado will and testament or a part of a will is revoked:
(1) By creating a subsequent will that revokes the previous will wholly or in part, or that has differences in the terms of the will; or
(2)By performing a revocatory act on the will (which includes burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying all or part of the will), if the testator performed the act with the intent and for the purpose of revoking all or part of the will, or if another individual performed the act in the testator's conscious presence and by the testator's direction.
Probate and Estate Taxes
After the testator has died, probate procedures prove the validity of the Colorado last will, pay off debts and taxes of the estate, and distribute property as designated in the Colorado last will. Generally, if the estate is valued at more than $50,000 or contains real estate, probate proceedings are required. Overall, probate takes, on the average, 6 to 12 months to complete.
Colorado's estate tax is equal to the Federal estate tax credit. Therefore in general, if no Federal estate taxes are due on the estate covered by a Colorado last will, then no additional Colorado estate taxes are owed.
It is extremely important to make a Colorado will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Colorado state laws.
For example, a surviving spouse takes the entire estate if there are no children, parents, or direct descendants alive when the testator dies. If the testator is unmarried and dies, then any children will receive the property to share in equal amounts. If the testator has no spouse or children at the time of death, then the parents receive the entire estate.
If you make a Colorado will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.