It’s not uncommon for a Colorado resident to die, leaving behind heirs, but no estate to speak of. But what happens in the opposite circumstance—when a Colorado resident dies with assets, but no heirs to whom they can be distributed? The answer is found in Colorado Statutes section 15-12-914.
The First Twenty-One Years
When someone dies without heirs, there is said to be “no taker” of the estate. Heirs need not be a spouse or children; they may be siblings, parents, grandparents, or even descendants of grandparents—distant cousins, great-nieces and nephews.
In the case of no takers, the court will appoint a personal representative of the estate, who will liquidate the decedent’s assets. The money from those assets is then paid to the state treasurer. If, at any time within the twenty-one years after payment, someone claims to be entitled to the estate, the funds will be released to them if the court administering the estate finds they are legally entitled to them. However, no interest is paid on the funds. The state is authorized by statute to invest the funds, and any interest earned is paid into the state’s general fund, not to late-appearing heirs.
If any of the decedent’s funds were held by a fiduciary, such as a trust company, and the funds are unclaimed by an heir or beneficiary, the organization may turn the funds over to the state treasurer. Again, if a valid heir surfaces within the twenty-one year period, the funds will be payable to him or her. Once the organization that was holding the funds turns them over to the state treasurer, that organization will have no further responsibility or liability for the money to any heirs who may appear.
A personal representative or other fiduciary turning funds over to the state treasurer when there appear to be no takers to the estate must file a report with the state attorney general. The report is intended to give as much information as possible about any possible heirs of the decedent, in order to prevent funds from being paid out as the result of a fraudulent claim. If a claim is made in the court administering the estate, the attorney general must be served with notice as an interested person.
After Twenty-One Years
If no heir comes forward within the twenty-one years from the time the proceeds of the estate are paid into the state treasury, then the money becomes the property of the state of Colorado. State law directs that the money is to be transferred to the public school fund.
The takeaway from all of this information is twofold. If you are an individual with no living relatives, you must make an estate plan in order to control the disposition of your assets, perhaps to a favorite charity or a friend who is not an heir under Colorado law. If you believe you may be entitled to assets from a Colorado estate thought to have no takers, you should file a claim with the probate or district court in which the estate was administered.
To learn more, contact the experienced estate planning and probate attorneys at Davis Schilken. Call us at 303-670-9855 to arrange a consultation at one of our two locations in The Denver Tech Center and Golden, Colorado. We look forward to working with you.