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

Make Sure Your Surviving Spouse is Provided for in Your Estate Plan

     The Colorado Probate Code affords a surviving spouse, who may be unintentionally omitted from his or her deceased spouse’s Will, an intestate share. The rationale for this provision of the Code is the presumption that the Decedent would have wanted the surviving spouse to receive his or her estate rather than beneficiaries named in a prior Will that predates the marriage.

Continue reading
  12 Hits
12 Hits

Aretha Franklin's Funky Wills

In May, three hand-written wills were found hidden in Aretha Franklin’s Detroit area home. Her family and lawyers previously thought she had died intestate. Two hand-written wills dated 2010 were found in a locked cabinet and third hand-written will dated 2014 was found under a couch in Ms. Franklin’s living room. The wills are difficult to follow. (Click here for example.) All three documents have been offered for probate as valid holographic wills. There is some question whether they are valid under Michigan law.

Continue reading
  41 Hits
41 Hits

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.

Continue reading
  112 Hits
112 Hits

“Sound Mind”, “Lucid Intervals” and “Insane Delusions” – What Does It All Mean?

Author and director William “Tim” Burton is quoted as saying, “They say that one person’s insanity is another person’s reality.” Recently, Wade Ash has been involved in several interesting cases involving testators suffering from cognitive impairment when they prepared their Will or Trust. Even persons who are declared mentally incompetent, incapacitated or suffering from various types of mental illness or addiction, may still have sufficient capacity to prepare a Will or Trust. A testator may even lack testamentary capacity, but still have “lucid intervals” enabling them to prepare a Will.

Continue reading
  158 Hits
158 Hits

Will Contests

The proponents of the Will have the initial burden of due execution, venue, and proof of death. The burden is on the contestant to show lack of testamentary capacity, fraud, undue influence, duress, mistake or revocation. However, undue influence cannot be inferred by motive and opportunity alone. There must be some evidence, either direct or circumstantial, to show that undue influence not only existed but also influenced the making of the Will.

I have always considered the two most important witnesses in a Will contest to be the drafting attorney and treating doctor.

Continue reading
  161 Hits
161 Hits

Making the Law Keep Up

Intestacy laws determine how a person’s assets pass if there is no will. What should intestacy law provide with regard to same sex marriage and with respect to parentage involving genetic materials. Under the Uniform Parentage Act a person may have three parents (and correspondingly more grandparents).

Continue reading
  326 Hits
326 Hits

Electronic Wills–Governor Vetoes Florida’s Electronic Will Statute (Part II)

In 2017, the Florida Legislature approved House Bill 277 promulgating the new Florida Electronic Wills Act (FEWA). The FEWA authorizes the creation of electronic wills and provides that the execution of electronic wills may be witnessed and notarized through the use of remote technology. The Act also specifies that electronic wills for residents, as well as non-residents, may be probated in Florida.

Continue reading
  469 Hits
469 Hits

Swedish Death Cleaning

A common problem which many families encounter following the death of a parent or other relative is how to deal with the decedent’s personal property. In the absence of a legally effective personal property memorandum, will, or other governing document signed by the decedent specifying who gets what, the disposition of the personal property sometimes leads to bitter, protracted, and often times expensive controversies between the surviving spouse, children of the first or subsequent marriages, or other family members.

Continue reading
  479 Hits
479 Hits

Third Party Rights: Small Estates and Non-Probate Assets

Many of our probate statutes are designed to carry out a decedent’s intention as expressed in his or her will. Certain rules of construction (survivorship, substitution of assets) apply to wills and revocable trusts as will substitutes. The statutes also provide for recognition and ordering of third party (non-beneficiary) interests in probate and revocable trust assets. These would include taxes, creditor claims, and family protection entitlement during the period of administration.

Continue reading
  1175 Hits
1175 Hits

Beneficiary Designations May be Dangerous to Your Estate Plan

Traditionally, the central document in an estate plan was a will or revocable trust. For many people, that continues to be true, but it is now possible to pass almost any kind of property outside the terms of your will. For example, this can be done by adding the beneficiary as a joint owner on a bank account, by naming the beneficiary as a “pay on death” (POD) or “transfer on death” (TOD) payee on a stock or securities account, or by signing a “beneficiary deed” that names a beneficiary to become the owner of real estate when you die. Colorado recently added automobiles to the list of assets that can pass by a TOD beneficiary designation. These arrangements, which I refer to generically as “beneficiary designations” can be useful, but they can also seriously disrupt a careful estate plan if they are done without care and appropriate advice.

Continue reading
  600 Hits
600 Hits

Leggo My Eggo -or- Who Gets My Gametes When I Die?

Among the many wonders (and occasional terrors) of modern medicine, few strike more of an emotional chord than advances in reproductive technology. Preserving our genetic material for use after death has passed from science fiction to scientific fact; but the law remains unestablished in Colorado as to what happens if there is a dispute about ownership of frozen sperm, ova, or embryos after the death of one or both of the donors.

Continue reading
  705 Hits
705 Hits

Mary Tyler Moore: Another Uncertain Celebrity Estate

Beloved actress, producer and activist, Mary Tyler Moore, was laid to rest in a private ceremony in Fairfield, Connecticut on January 29, 2017 at 80 years old, after battling diabetes and suffering from complications with pneumonia. While the status of her estate is unclear at this point, it is very likely that Moore left behind a Will. With a considerable legacy, including an estate that is valued at $60 million, a question arises of who will inherit Moore’s fortune. Her son and only heir, passed away tragically in an accident and her brother and sister are also deceased. This essentially leaves Robert Levine, her longtime husband, as her primary heir. Under Connecticut Probate Rules, Levine is entitled to at least one third of Moore’s probate estate, which in this case, under Connecticut’s spousal share, could be in the spectrum of $20 million. Although Moore left an undetermined amount of money to charity, the question remains: Will her husband inherit a large chunk of the “high-net-worth” legacy that she leaves behind or will charities such as PETA and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, to which she has contributed in the past, receive the majority share?

  922 Hits
922 Hits

News of the Firm

We are very pleased to announce that Gary T. Potter joined our firm on July 1, 2016. Gary’s practice will continue to focus on Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Administration. Before beginning his career in the private practice of law, Gary served as a Deputy Colorado Attorney General, Inheritance Tax Division; as a Vice President and Trust Officer with First National Bank of Denver Trust Department; and as Vice President Marketing of Integrated Resources. Gary has served on numerous boards and in leadership positions throughout his career including the Denver Trust Officers Association, Teachers Award Foundation, Craig Hospital Board and the Colorado Golf Association, to name a few.

Continue reading
  762 Hits
762 Hits

Our Furry Friends

In perusing the bulletin board in our office lunchroom I notice that we have posted ten photographs of our loved ones. Seven are pictures of pets and three are pictures of children.

Continue reading
  936 Hits
936 Hits

The Late Prince Rogers Nelson’s Intestacy Problem

That Prince died worth hundreds of millions of dollars without a Will is probably astounding to anyone who hears it. But it is not all that uncommon, even among the wealthy.

Continue reading
  746 Hits
746 Hits

Death, Taxes, and the Business of Dead Celebrities

Prince, the artist formerly known as Prince Rogers Nelson, died on April 21, 2016 at the age of 57. While people all over the world are mourning the loss of this music icon, his surviving family and the lawyers for his estate may soon be mourning his lack of legal planning for his death.

Continue reading
  952 Hits
952 Hits

Estate of Petteys v. Farmers State Bank of Brush, 2016 COA 34, No. 14CA1581

On March 10, 2016, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued an opinion that reversed the trial court and held that an irrevocable trust, a part of which was included in the gross estate of the decedent, was required to contribute its pro rata share of estate taxes under Colorado's estate tax apportionment statute. Our firm had prepared the Will for the decedent, in which estate taxes attributable to the irrevocable trust's inclusion in his gross estate were specifically apportioned to that trust. The trust had been created in 1958. The decedent died in 2009; a U.S. Estate Tax Return was filed in 2010, the estate paid the entire tax due, and the personal representative requested that the trust contribute its share of the tax. When the trustee refused, the personal representative brought suit. Initially, the trial court held that because federal law was silent as to apportionment to such interests prior to the 1986 effective date for IRC 2207B, the Colorado statute at 15-12-916 applied, but the court did not decide certain other issues. After the IRS completed its audit in October 2012, final request for contribution was made. A hearing was held before the trial court in 2015 on the remaining issues, and the court ordered, among other things, that the effective date statute at 15-17-101 permitted the court to refuse to apply the Colorado Probate Code if it found it to be "inequitable." The trial court found that it would be inequitable to force the trustee to pay its pro rata share of the tax and entered judgment for the trustee. The personal representative appealed.

Continue reading
  905 Hits
905 Hits

Heir Location Service Industry Problems

At the end of 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice brought charges against a California-based heir location services provider. The DOJ has a number of ongoing antitrust investigations into customer allocation, price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct that runs rampant in the heir location service industry. Consumers will benefit from the Department of Justice shining a light on this industry.

Continue reading
  1128 Hits
1128 Hits

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.

Continue reading
  1658 Hits
1658 Hits

Those picky details . . .

In this age of instant access to information on the Internet, including do-it-yourself estate planning documents, it is important to remember that the devil is in the details. Examples on point: a recent email exchange among estate planning attorneys from around the country describing potentially painful prose:

Continue reading
  1282 Hits
1282 Hits