Many Colorado testators who write wills talk openly with their family members about their intentions. They leave the majority of their resources for their closest loved ones, including their spouses and children. There are no surprises when reviewing such a will after their death because they have been transparent about their wishes.
Others may include terms in estate planning paperwork that their loved ones find truly surprising. For example, people sometimes choose to leave nothing for their closest family members. Some parents leave assets for their grandchildren but not their children. Some people leave everything for charitable organizations, rather than people they knew.
People who feel surprised and disappointed about the contents of a loved one’s will sometimes wonder if they have any options. For example, a spouse may wonder whether they can be disinherited by a will in Colorado or whether they can successfully challenge this turn of events by taking the matter to probate court.
Spouses have a statutory right of inheritance
Colorado law extends certain protections to the spouses of those who have died. If someone does not have a will at the time of their death, their spouse will inherit all or most of their estate depending on whether or not they have children.
If someone does have a will, that testamentary document needs to align with state statutes. Spouses in Colorado have a right of inheritance. If the will does not allocate any assets to a spouse, the disinherited spouse can request their elective share of the estate even though doing so directly contradicts someone’s estate planning wishes.
The elective share of a spouse will depend on the scope of the estate and the length of the marriage. It is not possible for one spouse to completely disinherit the other unless there is a pre-existing agreement in place. A spouse can accept a will that does not leave any assets to them if they have sufficient resources of their own to support themselves. However, they generally always have the option of pursuing their elective share if the will excludes them as a beneficiary.
Learning about the rules included in Colorado’s probate statutes may benefit those concerned about their inheritance rights as well as those planning an estate. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to seek clarity in this regard.