While many Colorado residents have probably heard people talk about the importance of having a will, many people might not understand fully what will happen to their property if they die without a will.

When a person dies without a will but has significant assets, which could include something as modest as a family house, then the estate will still have to go through probate.

Certain assets, such as joint bank accounts, life insurance death benefits, and retirement accounts will not go through probate, as they will pass to the other property owner or, in the case life insurance and retirement accounts, to the beneficiary on the account.

However, instead of dividing up the property according to the person’s will, the court will instead divide the property according to Colorado’s intestacy succession laws.

Under these laws, if the person who died was married at the time, then the person’s spouse will inherit the entire estate if the person who died has no children from another relationship.

On the other hand, if the person who dies has minor children from another relationship, then his or her surviving spouse will get the first $263,000 and then half of the remaining property, with the person’s children receiving the other half. If the children are adults, the surviving spouse only receives the first $175,000.

If the person who died was unmarried, then the law will describe how his or her estate passes to his or her surviving children or other family members.

While the idea behind the intestacy succession laws is to divide the estate among one’s closest relatives, in practice, they do not always work this way. A person who truly wants to be sure why.