Elder Law, Estates, and Trust Administration

The World of Probate and Estate Administration

When it comes to fears about death, one of the biggest added concerns that people have is the possibility of probate. Across America, you are likely to hear individuals bemoan the probate process as lengthy, expensive, complicated, and rife with conflict. While every state has a different set of rules regarding probate, and some will certainly contain the problems listed here, you should feel assured that probate in the State of Colorado can be a smooth process.

It is important to recognize that even with a well-crafted estate plan, a person passing away may require probate. This is because of the way that assets are titled at the time of death, and without competent estate attorneys, the deceased may not have avoided probate as they had hoped. Also, anyone may challenge an estate plan or its administration, which will force the estate into probate.

The State of Colorado has implemented a very effective, streamlined system for undergoing probate as either an “informal” matter or a “formal” matter. Depending on the legal issues involved, as well as whether anyone challenges the estate, the probate process can be undertaken and completed within a matter of months. Even with the best intentions, though, any interested person may challenge an estate, which can result in prolonged litigation for years.

Although probate is not as daunting a process in Colorado as it may be in other states, it is still a legal matter that must be taken seriously and completed properly, so ensure that you have the best legal advocates at your side to guide you through the process.

Guardians and Conservators

The death, disability, or other loss of a loved one is an extremely difficult time for anyone, but none more so than a minor child. While all of the adults are scrambling to pick up the pieces, they may forget that the child left behind is experiencing more difficulty than anyone else may know or see. As a result, it is critical to attend to the child’s needs quickly, which likely means pursuing a legal guardianship.

A guardianship is a probate action initiated in the county where the child resides. ANY PERSON who is interested in the welfare of the child, and who believes they are best-suited to serve as guardian, can petition the local probate court for appointment. If, however, there is a valid guardian nomination available (by way of a Last Will and Testament or financial Power of Attorney), the nomination will give the applicant top priority for appointment. If the child is over the age of 12, though, they can provide consent and their own nomination to the appointment. Once the court finds that appointment of a certain person is in the best interests of the child, the guardian must file a care plan with the court, and then file annual reports until the child turns 18, when the guardianship terminates.

Similarly, when an adult becomes sick or disabled and they can no longer care for themselves, it creates a great strain on the family unit. When this stress is coupled with years of unresolved sibling conflicts, it often results in the children refusing to reach agreement about the best plan of care for their parent. The failure to reach agreement can then lead to fights over doctor appointments and medical procedures, housing arrangements for the parent, management of finances and property, and an overall lack of decisions about whether and how to go about obtaining care. All the while, the parent is slowly deteriorating but nothing is being done to stop it.

When dealing with a disabled adult, the most effective resolution is the appointment of a medical and financial Power of Attorney. But if the adult cannot legally sign a Power of Attorney, the second option is to petition the local probate court, in the county where the adult resides, for appointment as the person’s guardian (for medical affairs) and conservator (for financial affairs). With court oversight from that point forward, it also minimizes the risk that anyone is going to steal money, cut the person off from contact with others, etc.

Whether for a minor or adult, both situations require a great deal of care, understanding, and knowledge of Colorado probate laws. It is crucial that if you find yourself with someone in this circumstance, they are protected from anyone that may cause them harm. Our attorneys have extensive experience in both estate planning and probate matters, and we can walk you through this process with compassion and zealous representation.

Trust Administration

Serving as the Trustee, Trust Protector, or Beneficiary of a trust can be an extremely daunting and scary endeavor. Complying with all the legal and fiduciary requirements of a trust, along with managing assets, making investment decisions, preparing accountings, authorizing distributions, and dealing with conflicts can overwhelm even the most well-prepared individuals.

In any role of a Trust, you are entitled to effective legal representation, whether to assert your legal rights or just to ensure that trust administration is on the right track. Nearly every problem has a solution, but the longer it goes unresolved, the more expensive and difficult the solution will be. Bringing a legal advisor into the trust early in the administrative process will ensure that the trust is managed effectively, efficiently, and that it will avoid litigation.

Our attorneys as Opfer | Campbell, P.C. have significant experience not only representing Trustees, Trust Protectors, and Beneficiaries in the administration process, but also serving as the fiduciaries when you do not want to do so yourself.

Creditors, Contests, and Questions for the Court

Did your parent incur substantial medical bills before they died? Does your spouse owe a large debt, but now they are disabled and unable to work? Did someone owe you money, but they recently died? Will your family fight over your estate when you pass away?

These questions, among many others, plague the survivors when a person becomes disabled or dies. Collections notices, foreclosure actions, and threats of litigation by friends and family can be overwhelming and disruptive to your grieving process. Most people placed into this situation have misconceptions about what they must do, who they must pay, etc., so it is critical to speak with a qualified advisor that can walk you through the issues and help light a path to closure.

Our attorneys specialize in representing surviving heirs and beneficiaries in resolving these issues, but we also have significant experience representing those creditors who are seeking payment from an estate, or those family members who believe questions need to be raised about the conduct of a Power of Attorney, Executor, Trustee, etc.

In any of the situations described above, the attorneys at Opfer | Campbell P.C. are capable of stepping in, advising you, and zealously representing your interests in the complicated and scary world of probate.