Most people probably think of wills and death when they hear about probate court.
That accounts for much of the work done in probate courts: overseeing the distribution of a person's estate after death. But the court also appoints guardians and conservators to oversee the affairs of the living after they are declared incapacitated. The court handles all involuntary mental health and alcoholism commitments as well.
Denver is the only Colorado city to have a special probate court established by constitutional amendment, the Judicial Reform Amendment, which was adopted by voters in 1962.
Establishment of the probate court came as part of legislation that reorganized the state court system. Before that, probate, juvenile and mental health cases were handled by justices of the peace as well as municipal and county courts.
The legislation did away with justices of the peace and moved probate, juvenile and mental health cases to the district courts.
David Brofman, who had presided over probate matters as a Denver county judge since 1951, became the first judge of Denver Probate Court in 1965.
Denver's probate judge, Elizabeth D. Leith, is appointed by the governor just as other district judges are. The magistrate, Ruben Hernandez, is hired by the judge.