Colorado Probate Blog - Wade Ash Woods Hill & Farley, P.C.

Joint Income Tax Returns and Common-Law Marriage in Colorado

Colorado is one of about ten states that recognize common law marriage. In a 1987 case, People v. Lucero, the Colorado Supreme Court held that “common law marriage is established by the mutual consent or agreement of the parties to be husband and wife, followed by a mutual and open assumption of a marital relationship.” The couple’s agreement to be married need not be explicit and may be inferred from the couple’s conduct. Under Lucero, “[t]he two factors that most clearly show an intention to be married are cohabitation and a general understanding or reputation among persons in the community in which the couple lives that the parties hold themselves out as husband and wife.” The court listed a number of behaviors that a court may consider in analyzing those two factors: joint bank or credit accounts, joint ownership of other property, the woman’s use of the man’s surname, the use of the man’s surname by children born to the parties, and the filing of joint tax returns.

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Pretermitted Heirs

Suppose you have a will and then, following the execution of the will, get married/or have a child. Did you know that Colorado has a “pretermitted heir” statute which basically provides that, under those circumstances, the new spouse or child is granted an intestate share of your estate. The intestate share is 50% + for a spouse and an equal share of the balance for a child. The shares are to be distributed outright, and the failure to redo your will may seriously distort the pattern for distribution of your estate. For example, your present will may set up trusts for children which coordinate the management and timing of trust distributions for the benefit of your other, pre-existing children.

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