Wills in Colorado can be typed or handwritten, but they must follow specific rules to ensure the testator's wishes are followed after he is gone. Disinheriting spouses and children is problematic in Colorado, so writing a will without legal assistance is recommended only for simple estates.
Colorado recognizes wills that are typed or handwritten by the will maker and signed in the presence of two independent witnesses. It’s therefore possible for an individual to make his or her own will in the state. Drafting a will does require special skills, however, especially if the will maker has a complex family situation, children from a previous relationship, or needs tax planning advice.
In complex situations, it would be prudent to have the will drafted by an attorney. For smaller estates with simple requirements, downloading a template will form for the state of Colorado is the best place to start.
Who Can Make a Colorado Will?
The will maker, called a testator, must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind to make a will in Colorado. He must also have testamentary capacity, which means that he must understand what he is doing when making the will and is able to explain why he is distributing his estate in the manner specified. Also, the testator must be making the will because he wants to, not because someone is forcing him to.
For instance, if the will maker intends to disinherit a spouse or a child, or leave his estate to his children in unequal shares, then he should have a reason for doing so. It’s wise to consult an attorney in this situation to document the will maker’s thought processes and make alternative arrangements as necessary. That’s because Colorado law allows a surviving spouse to receive a percentage of the estate regardless of what the will states, and a testator cannot disinherit a spouse simply by writing that person out of the will.
Rules for Wills in Colorado
A will must meet these requirements to be valid in the state of Colorado:
- The will can be typed or written out in the testator’s normal handwriting.
- The will must be dated and signed by the testator.
- Two disinterested persons must also sign the will in the testator’s presence as witnesses. Disinterested means the witnesses do not stand to inherit anything under the will.
In Colorado, it is not technically necessary for witnesses to sign a handwritten will, known as a holographic will, since the whole point of allowing handwritten wills is that they can be prepared in an emergency, such as when the will maker is ill in the hospital. However, it is good practice to have the will witnessed as this avoids arguments about the will’s validity after death.
How to Write a Colorado Will
For those who wish to prepare their own wills, it’s a good idea to download a template will form and fill in the blanks. These forms contain the correct language for use in the state of Colorado. Generally, the will should contain at least these sections:
- Identification: The name and address of the testator and a statement that this document is the testator’s last will.
- Executor: The will should appoint someone the testator knows and trusts to be his executor, also known as a personal representative, to handle the testator’s affairs after death.
- Specific bequests: The will should list gifts of specific items such as real estate, cars, money and personal property to named beneficiaries. For example: I leave $5,000 to my nephew, Michael Jones.
- Residue: The will should name the person who will receive the residue of the estate. This is everything that’s left over after payment of debts and taxes and the specific gifts have been made. Most people leave the residue of their estate to their spouse and/or children.
- Guardianship: If relevant, the will should name the person whom the testator wants to act as the legal guardian for a minor or disabled adult child.
- Signing formalities: The will must be signed and dated by the testator at the bottom of the will. The template will contain an area for the witnesses to sign.
Do Colorado Wills Need to Be Notarized?
Colorado law does not require that wills are notarized, but testators do have the option of signing a self-proving affidavit. This statement confirms that the will was properly executed, which should help the will pass through probate more quickly after the testator’s death. Without a self-proving affidavit, the witnesses may have to be contacted to personally attend a court hearing to tell the probate judge that they did, in fact, witness the testator's signature. The self-proving affidavit must be signed by the testator and the two witnesses in the presence of a notary public.
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