Colorado State Laws on Divisions in an Estate

By Greg Ruland
A proper will declares the decedent's intentions and controls how her estate is to be divided
signing a contract image by William Berry from

Colorado laws on the division of estates are found in several sections of the Colorado Revised Statutes. A proper will declares a deceased person's intentions and by Colorado law controls how his estate is to be divided. Generally, the division of an estate, when there is no will, is by "intestate succession." When there is a will, a spouse may elect against the will and take a share allowed by statute which is usually greater than the share provided under the will. This is called an "elective share."

Intestate Succession

Whatever part of an estate is not disposed of by will passes by intestate succession. Intestate means "without a will."

First, the law decides what the spouse's share is. Then it declares how the intestate's estate should be divided among heirs who are not the spouse.


When the spouse is the only heir, the surviving spouse takes the entire estate.

When there are surviving children of the deceased who are also children of the spouse, the spouse takes the entire estate.

If the deceased's parent and spouse survive, the spouse takes the first $200,000 plus three-quarters of the intestate property.

When the deceased has no descendants and just one heir, the surviving spouse, but the spouse has descendants not related to the deceased, the spouse takes $250,000 plus one-half the balance of the intestate property.

Spouse and children not of spouse:

If deceased's adult children survive and the spouse also has children by another relationship, the spouse takes the first $150,000 plus one-half the balance of any property in the intestate estate.

If spouse has no children, but deceased's adult children survive, spouse takes first $100,000 plus one-half the balance of any property in the intestate estate.

Share of Heirs Not Spouse:

Once spouse's share is determined, the remainder of the intestate estate, if any, goes first in equal shares to the deceased's descendants, "per capita at each generation."

Per capita at each generation means all the heirs of the same generation must receive equal shares.

No Descendants:

If there are no descendants and no spouse, the estate passes to surviving parents in equal shares. If no surviving parents, estate passes to brothers and sisters in equal shares. If no brothers and sisters survive, the estate passes to surviving grandparents, then to aunts and uncles if no grandparents.

A "birth child" may make a claim against an intestate estate. A birth child is one born to the deceased but adopted away.

No Takers:

When someone dies with no heirs and no will, their intestate estate passes to the State of Colorado. This is called "escheat."

Elective Share

So long as the death occurs in Colorado, the deceased's spouse can elect to receive up to one-half of an "augmented estate," instead of taking a share provided under the will.

The percent of an "augmented estate" a spouse may elect to take under this statute depends on the number of years the spouse was married to the deceased.

In some circumstances, a spouse may be entitled to a supplemental elective share of $50,000.

Augmented Estate

When a spouse elects against the will, the estate must be re-valued. Property not normally included in the value of the estate, like that which transfers on death to a joint owner, is brought back into the estate for the purpose of the valuation. This is called an "augmented estate."

A spouse who elects against the will is entitled to up to 50 percent of the augmented estate.

About the Author

Greg Ruland began writing professionally in 1978. His work has been published most recently in "Sedona Red Rock News," "Cottonwood Journal Extra," "Lifestyles of Sedona" and the Sedona Red Rock News Website. Ruland holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Oregon School of Law.