A “simple will” is a document that directs where your property will go when you die. A simple will does not involve trusts or tax planning.
In order to be valid, the will must have been signed voluntarily by a competent person over the age of eighteen who understands what the will says and what property he or she owns.
A handwritten will can be valid if the signature and the material portions of the will are in the handwriting of the person whose will it is. Further, he or she must have had the intent to be making a will.
What is an estate?
Your estate is everything you own or have a beneficial interest in at the time of your death. It includes things like your house, your automobiles, your furniture, your bank accounts, your retirement accounts, and your life insurance.
Do I need a will?
If you want to direct who gets your property when you die, even if all you have is personal property, you should have a will. Also, if you want to designate who should be responsible for collecting and distributing your property when you die, you should have a will appointing a personal representative.
Dying without a will
If someone dies without a will, he or she has died “intestate.” Contrary to popular belief, if someone dies without a will, that person’s estate does not automatically go to the state. Rather, under Colorado law, if a person dies without a will, that person’s estate will be disposed of as follows:
- If a person dies while he or she is married, the surviving spouse will automatically receive a portion of the estate. How much the surviving spouse receives depends upon such factors as the value of the estate, how long the spouses were married, whether there are common children between the spouses, whether there are children who are not common between the spouses and the ages of those children.
- If an unmarried person dies intestate, his or her estate will be distributed to (in the following order):
- descendant’s decedents (children, grandchildren, etc.)
- living parents or the surviving parent
- siblings, nieces and nephews, etc.
- aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
- children who were born to the decedent but adopted away
- birth parents who adopted the decedent away
- State of Colorado
Many wills contain statements that anyone challenging the will should receive nothing. However, under Colorado law, such clauses are unenforceable if probable cause exists for instituting court proceedings to challenge a will.