Probate and Estate Administration
In its most basic terms, probate is nothing more than a grant of authority to the executor (personal representative) to do what needs to be done with an estate. At least in Colorado, the probate process is straightforward, informal, and fast. Much of it can be done by the client, with just a little bit of coaching. Uniform Probate Code II, which Colorado has adopted, is designed to allow personal representatives to do much of the estate administration independently without having a judge looking over their shoulders. Because of the advantages of the Colorado probate system, Skip views himself to be a coach, not a director, and will help you do as much or as little as is necessary to handle the estate of a loved one. He deals personally with all clients, never passing their concerns off to paralegals or administrative staff. Occasionally probate can become adversarial, where one or more unhappy beneficiaries contest the will, or challenge the personal representative’s conduct of fiduciary responsibilities. Sometimes it can be something seemingly trivial-such as who gets Dad’s Hot Wheels collection-that can generate lasting family hurt and disruption. Such cases are too-often the result of inadequate or ill-considered estate planning. They must be handled with both delicacy and determination, with the aim of achieving a fair resolution without permanent family or relational schisms. That’s our goal in probate litigation. The one bequest we all share is that our families come together, not to blows.
Guardians and Conservators
Colorado probate courts are also responsible for handling protective proceedings-these are proceedings where it sometimes becomes necessary to protect a loved one suffering from cognitive or physical disability through the vehicle of a guardianship and/or conservatorship. Surprisingly, a spouse is not automatically empowered to handle such affairs for a disabled spouse, and it sometimes becomes necessary to apply to the probate court for such authority. These proceedings properly center themselves on safeguarding and optimizing the independence and sovereignty of the individual, and thus can be lengthy and exacting. Even though there are provisions for an emergency guardianship, it is not something that can be accomplished overnight. The same concern for the rights of the individual applies where an individual recovers from a disability and wants to terminate a guardianship or conservatorship. Again, our objective in such things is to minimize stress, encourage cooperation and understanding within the family, and making sure the loved ones needs, both legal and emotional, are met.
Sometimes despite our best efforts things go wrong. Somebody abuses a power of attorney, a trustee goes rogue, the personal representative absconds, and exploitation takes place. Skip is passionate about protecting against, discovering, and correcting any instances of elder abuse, be it physical, emotional, financial, or all three. This includes cases of undue influence, where a financial predator gains the trust of an elder or vulnerable person only to take unfair advantage. In such cases, Colorado law provides the tools and mechanisms to bring such predators to justice and in many cases to recover property unjustly taken. A former Chairman of the El Paso County Probate Bar, Skip is one of a small group of attorneys who specialize in such litigation.
Guardians and conservators also have reporting and accounting responsibilities, monitored by the probate court. These can be confusing, time-consuming, and even intimidating at first. The office can help put together these reports, make sure they’re filed on time, and minimize the stress and hassle.
To learn more about Skip’s estate-planning and probate practice, please contact him today.