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Can you legally disinherit your children in Colorado?

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2022 | Estate Planning

There are many reasons why a parent may not want to leave much to their children when creating an estate plan. Perhaps they have become estranged from their child and have not spoken to them in years. Such scenarios are common when children develop substance abuse disorders or turn to a life of criminal activity despite the family trying to offer them support.

On the other hand, maybe the issue is not that you have a bad relationship with your children but rather that you have successfully supported them into adulthood. They now have great careers, their own homes and happy families. You may want to designate your resources elsewhere.

Whether your intention is to do as much good as possible or acknowledge the damage to your relationship, you may wonder whether it is even legal to disinherit your children in your estate plan. Is it possible to leave your children out of your will?

Only spouses have statutory inheritance rights

The law in Colorado does give children inheritance rights when someone dies without a will or other estate planning documents. Children and spouses can both inherit from intestate estate and will split the property in a certain way based on whether the surviving spouse is also the parent of those children.

However, if someone has a valid will, the only person they cannot fully disinherit is their spouse. Children don’t legally have a right to inherit anything from your estate. Of course, if you intend to write them out of your will, you need to do so carefully to avoid mistakes that could lead to probate challenges.

Perhaps the most common mistake people make when disinheriting a child is to simply leave them out of the will. A child denied an inheritance when all of their siblings receive something could easily make a claim in probate court that you left them out by mistake.

You may need to acknowledge in writing in your will that one child will not receive property despite what you leave for the others. You might also choose to leave them a very small amount of money or personal property with minimal financial value. If you want to disinherit all of your children, creating a generation-skipping trust might be a viable solution.

Disclosing your plans to your family members before your death can also help minimize the risk of someone’s disappointment and shock motivating a probate challenge. Understanding the rules that apply to estate plans in Colorado can help you achieve your specific goals.