Is Your Colorado Will Valid? Check for These 6 Fatal Flaws That Can Void Your Wishes

what voids a will

Are you gambling with your final wishes? Don’t let your Colorado will fall victim to fatal flaws that could void your desires.

Faulty execution and other hidden defects quietly invalidate many well-intended wills each year. It happens more than expected – a signed document full of flaws causing painful family disputes.

Before your dying wishes get denied, proactively check your documents for these six fatal flaws that derail even airtight Colorado wills:

1. Lack of Testamentary Capacity

For a Colorado will to be valid, you must hold the requisite mental capacity to draft and execute it. This requirement is known as testamentary capacity. Generally, you must understand who your natural heirs are, who will take assets, the document’s effect on all your heirs (named and unnamed), and which assets you possess.

Lack of testamentary capacity is one of the main ways dissatisfied heirs contest a will in Colorado probate litigation. They argue the testator (the deceased person who made the will) lacked a sound mind and legal ability to execute a valid last will.

While loved ones may mean well, such claims also serve their self-interest if the will fails and assets pass to them under intestacy laws. Even when the contest fails, probate litigation can tie up the settlement of the estate for months or years.

Incapacity claims allege that during estate planning, the testator held:

  • Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other age-related mental decline.
  • Evidence of confusion, memory loss, or disorientation.
  • Uncharacteristic behavior changes.
  • Suspected undue influence by caregivers or others.

Any sudden changes to your will may also raise questions when capacity becomes doubtful, for instance, excluding a child heir or minimizing a spouse’s share without reasonable grounds.

Undocumented capacity issues create ambiguity that opens the door to probate disputes. By contrast, clear evidence of sound judgment significantly reduces this basis for contests.

To avoid this, it’s important to ensure that you have the necessary mental capacity when creating your will.

2. Undue Influence or Coercion

Another primary ground for Colorado will disputes stems from suspected undue influence. This claim involves an accusation that someone pressured you or impaired your judgment (intent) as they persuaded you to draft or alter a will for their benefit.

For example, a new friend, caregiver, or more distant relative appears out of nowhere to suddenly receive a windfall under a new will. Meanwhile, the share left to a struggling child or long-standing partner mysteriously disappears.

Undue influence is hard to disprove in court, especially if the alleged influencer was in a confidential relationship with you when you amended your will.

Undue influence claims allege:

  • While in an isolated, confidential relationship with an influencer, the testator relied heavily on the influencer’s apparent authority when making significant changes to the will.
  • The testator lacked social ties or support systems.
  • The testator experienced anxiety, confusion, or coercion during the new will signing.
  • The testator’s alterations deviate radically from previously expressed wishes.

By contrast, Colorado wills made with documented input from varied friends and family – including those affected by the terms – have built-in checks against undue influence claims.

3. Glaring Mistakes or Ambiguous Language in the Document

Mistake contests involve identifying one or more technical errors serious enough to void a will. For example, incomplete signing formalities or confusing document draft language inadvertently directing assets incorrectly.

Grounds can include:

  • Unsigned or undated wills
  • Ambiguous beneficiary naming
  • Misidentification of executors or property
  • Unclear document amendments/addenda

While wills often contain boilerplate language to insulate from minor issues, material mistakes allow courts to declare them entirely or partially inoperable. Unfortunately, mistakes happen regularly when people try to draft their own documents or use Internet forms.

4. Miscommunicated Revocations or Changes to Your Will

Revocations argue that the testator rescinded their documented estate wishes at some point by:

  • Creating a newer will or trust explicitly revoking the previous one
  • Personally destroying or defacing the revoked document after signing a new one
  • Making handwritten statements intending to withdraw the existing will even without witnesses

Establishing legitimate revocations requires evidence like more recent instruments or testimony regarding intent and actions to rescind. All changes need to be legally executed in front of witnesses and a notary. When valid, however, revocations void prior wills.

By understanding exactly how various grounds apply for contests, beneficiaries can determine if potential exists for overturning unjust or problematic wills during probate.

5. Failure to Follow Proper Execution Requirements

To ensure the validity of your Colorado will, it’s crucial that you adhere to the proper execution requirements. Failure to follow these requirements can result in your wishes being voided.

In Colorado, for a will to be valid, it must be in writing and signed by the testator or the person making the will in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses must also sign the will.

It’s also recommended to have the will notarized, although it isn’t required by law it is required in order to keep the probate process as smooth and easy as possible.

6. Failure to Update the Will

Life is constantly changing, and it’s important to keep your will up to date to accurately reflect your current situation.

For example, if you have gotten married, divorced, had children, or acquired new assets, it’s essential to update your will accordingly. By failing to update your will, you risk leaving behind outdated instructions that may not align with your current desires.

To avoid any complications and ensure that your wishes are carried out as intended, make it a priority to review and update your will on a regular basis.

How to Properly Execute a Colorado Will

For a will to be legally valid in Colorado, the testator and their witnesses must comply with strict state formalities when signing and witnessing a testamentary document.

  • The testator must sign at the end of the document. Typed or printed names alone will not suffice.
  • Two adult witnesses must sign in the testator’s presence, at the testator’s request, after observing the execution.
  • A self-proving affidavit signed before a notary public holding the witnesses’ signatures can validate a will if the witnesses cannot testify during probate litigation.

Additionally, Colorado recognizes handwritten “holographic” wills meeting certain conditions:

  • The material portions are in the testator’s handwriting.
  • The testamentary document contains enough information to determine how to distribute the estate without needing other documents to clarify.
  • The testator’s signature and date appear at the end.

Caution is essential here due to the risk of ambiguity or insufficient terms once the testator is gone. While legally binding, a handwritten will often creates difficulties in tracking down assets or interpreting vagueness that could spur disputes.

For these reasons, we strongly advise consulting an experienced estate planning lawyer to ensure proper execution. Doing this avoids technical defects challengers can seize upon to void all or part of a do-it-yourself will.

Start Planning Your Legacy With a Colorado Estate Planning Attorney

Crafting a last will and testament is vital to prevent legal contests from draining your estate after you pass away. However, even legally valid Colorado wills often face challenges from dissatisfied beneficiaries over inheritance decisions they deem unfair.

Relatives may also question your mental capacity or allege manipulation, especially if significant changes were made from previous versions. Protect your final wishes by taking preventative steps:

  1. Maintain consistent documentation from your estate planning attorney confirming your competence and intent during will drafting sessions over the years.
  2. Revisit your will every few years as your family structure and asset portfolio inevitably evolve over your lifetime. Update beneficiary designations accordingly.
  3. Tactfully inform your family of your estate plan well in advance to avoid shock and resentment. An impartial mediator can facilitate this sensitive conversation if tensions exist.

With prudent planning, you can reduce Colorado inheritance disputes and uphold the legacy you intend to leave for future generations. Let our attorneys at Hammond Law Group advise you on the most effective precautions for your unique family situation and assets.

Author Bio

Catherine Hammond is the CEO and founder of Hammond Law Group, a Colorado-based estate planning law firm she founded in 2005. With a strong focus on protecting families from the legal consequences of disability and death, she creates comprehensive estate plans that minimize taxes, costs, and government interference.

A native of Denver, Catherine completed her undergraduate studies at Coe College in Iowa, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver College of Law in 1993, concentrating on estate planning, tax, and mediation. Catherine is a member of various professional organizations, including WealthCounsel, ElderCounsel, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Colorado Springs Estate Planning Council, and the Purposeful Planning Institute. Beyond her legal expertise, Catherine provides transformational coaching to support clients and their families through life transitions.

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