COLORADO: Families who have seen their estates wiped or diminished by court fiduciaries are the catalyst for greater probate protection. Legislation is planned for the coming year. Arvada Republican Laura Woods has collected statements on Wednesday from numerous individuals attending a probate reform hearing. Families put forward their personal stories while Pat Steadman (Senate Democrat) took notes.

There were more than fifty suggestions and the outcome being bipartisan probate legislation must be on Senate agenda in 2015. Ultimately families have to be protected from the probate system. The consistent pattern within the probate process would appear to be very one sided in favor of fiduciaries.

Republican Woods puts forward that an estate would be flagged when a threshold of 10% had been spent by a probate court appointed fiduciary. If reform had come earlier it might have assisted 20 year old Diego Conde who, at the age of 3, came to the States. His mother had saved $20k after many years house cleaning for a college education. Conde was fostered at the age of 12 after his mother died of cancer. The lawyer assigned to look after the money was Tamra Palmer. After attending college Palmer then became somewhat elusive and Diego Conde’s bills weren’t being met, thereafter Conde was served with an eviction notice.

All Diego Conde’s money had been swallowed up by Palmer’s fees while Conde didn’t have enough to buy food. Conde felt extremely misguided and informed throughout the probate process. The Denver Post reported last year about Palmer’s links to Jennifer Gormley and was dismissed from her public administrator role in Arapohoe County. Gormley along with Palmer benefited from substantial probate fees in Arapohoe County.

Probate court appoints Public administrators where no heir’s named and/or wishes to administer the estate. When individuals are also deemed incompetent in handling their finances they may be appointed as conservators. Various individuals complained about Palmer and probate judge Timothy Fasing while others in Denver and Jefferson counties felt like victims of the probate system. Many also feared retaliation with some wearing masks in the presence of a television camera. Nearly all raised their hands when asked how many had been threatened.

Ideas from witnesses was to rotate probate judges and to see change in the judicial retention system. Restricting fees of numerous fiduciaries by the creation of a state office of Public Guardian along with probate records being more accessible.

The Public Guardian office is being championed by a Susan Scott who, along with her family, endured a 12 year battle in Denver probate court prior to concluding a dispute. Her father had spent around $1.5 million. The family only managed to salvage the estate due to the increase in value of the family home. Funds kept in the probate registry at Denver court should also be inquired about. How is the money managed, how much is there and how many estates. Probate issues raised are not unique to Colorado.