Understanding the Colorado Intestate Process

December 22, 2021

Understanding the Colorado Intestate Process

Having a comprehensive estate plan in place and checking in on it regularly while still healthy can substantially improve the chances that all wealth and assets built over a lifetime and included in an estate will be distributed per the decedent’s true wishes. In the absence of an estate plan or any valid documentation indicating a decedent’s will, intestate succession laws will become applicable. These laws will dictate how an estate is distributed regardless of if the final result is what the decedent wanted or not. Speaking with an estate planning lawyer can be tremendously helpful because estate planning is often quite complex.

Life is unpredictable and anything can happen that can result in a person being incapacitated or dying. Without an established estate plan, the state of Colorado will be tasked with making decisions about how a person’s wealth will be distributed. To learn more about Colorado’s intestate process, call the Denver estate planning lawyers at the Johnson Law Group at (720) 463-4333. Text-to-chat is also conveniently available at (720) 730-4558.

What Are Colorado’s Intestate Laws?

The Colorado General Assembly indicates that Colorado’s intestate laws are designed to identify any relatives left behind after a person passes away and determine who is the closest to the decedent. Then, these individuals will be awarded either all or a portion of the estate. After a person dies without an estate plan, it will be up to the state to determine who is considered a relative, how many people are relatives, and what their relationship to the decedent and the other surviving family members is for legal purposes.

Relatives that Qualify for Estate Distribution Under Colorado Intestate Laws

The following are relatives that often qualify for estate distribution under Colorado intestate laws.


The following are the conditions under which a spouse will receive the estate under intestate laws.

  • When a spouse exists and no other descendants or heirs are present, the spouse gets everything.
  • When a spouse exists without children but the deceased has surviving parents, the spouse will get up to $300,000 of the property in addition to three-quarters of the rest of the estate. This leaves ¼ of the estate to go to the surviving parents.
  • When a spouse exists and the deceased had children with the spouse only, then the spouse receives everything.
  • When a spouse exists and the deceased had children with the spouse but the spouse also has children from a previous relationship, the spouse gets the first $225,000 of the property along with ½ of everything that remains. The children of the spouse and the deceased will be granted the rest of the property.
  • When a spouse exists and the deceased had grown children that were from a previous relationship, the spouse gets the first $150,000 of the property plus ½ of the remainder of assets. The deceased children will receive the remainder of the estate.


  • When parents exist and the deceased has no children or spouse, the parents are granted the entire estate.


  • If the deceased has siblings but not parents or a spouse, the siblings will be granted the entire estate.


  • Adopted children are considered legal heirs and will receive their portion of a deceased estate the same way that a biological child would.
  • Foster children are not considered legal heirs because these children were never formally adopted into a family. Therefore, foster children will not receive a portion of the deceased estate.
  • Stepchildren that have not been adopted by a decedent will also not be considered a legal heir and as such, not receive a portion of the estate. Although, if the decedent was going through the legal adoption process but passed before it was completed, as long as the adoption is awarded to the surviving spouse, that child will be considered a legal heir. In this way, a stepchild would be eligible for a portion of the estate.
  • Any child of a deceased individual that had been formally adopted by another independent family from the deceased, then that child will not be a lawful heir and will not receive their portion of the estate. If a deceased had a spouse and that spouse adopts the child then the child can still receive their share of the estate.
  • Biological children that are born before a person dies are considered lawful heirs and will be granted their share of the estate.
  • Unless it can be proven that a child born by a spouse was not the biological heir of the deceased, that child will be considered a qualified child to obtain their portion of the estate.
  • If a biological child exists to a person who is not a spouse, that child will still receive their portion of the estate. Two parents do not have to be married for a child to be a valid party entitled to their piece of the estate.

No Relatives or Heirs

  • Forfeiture of all property to the state. Therefore, if there was a close friend or charity that a deceased individual wanted their estate to be given to, this is unlikely to happen without valid legal documentation.

The Colorado intestate process is complicated and unraveling what goes where and to whom can get confusing and overwhelming quickly. Having an up-to-date, detailed estate plan gives you the best chances of ensuring that your wealth is distributed per your intentions. Also, it can make the process much less stressful and it can help things go quicker for your loved ones. An estate planning lawyer at the Johnson Law Group can assist parties build an acceptable estate plan that will disseminate wealth according to a person’s desires.

Speak to a Denver Estate Planning Attorney Today

Treasury Direct as a part of the United States Department of the Treasury, Bureau of the Fiscal Service describes some aspects of estate planning that people can look to as a helpful resource for end-of-life priorities. For all of your questions and more regarding estate planning and the Colorado intestate process, please reach out to the Johnson Law Group by calling (720) 463-4333 or texting (720) 730-4558.

Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
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