Matters of probate include trusts, which are governed by Article 1 of Title 15 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, and powers of appointment, which are governed by Article 2 of Title 15 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Cases relating to trusts can involve claims for improper investments, distributions to beneficiaries and complex litigation involving trustees' duties and obligations to trust beneficiaries. The Probate Court is called upon to create trusts for protected persons or to make transfers to or from trusts on behalf of persons unable to act for themselves due to disability.
The settlement of estates of deceased persons is governed by Articles 10 through 13 of Title 15 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. Probate filings include informal administration of decedents' estates initiated through the Court registrar. Informal probates frequently proceed through closing with limited judicial involvement. Some estates are administered in formal proceedings involving limited or extensive Court supervision. The personal representative of a decedent's estate or any interested person may request instructions from the Court or use the Court to resolve conflict among parties. Each year numerous estates require litigation to determine the validity of wills, the identity of the decedent's heirs, paternity, common law or putative spouse claims, creditors' claims against the decedent or the estate, disputes over payment and amount of the fee payable to fiduciaries, attorneys, accountants, and the like. Many of these conflicts are complex and involve multiple parties, lengthy pre-trial and trial time, and can involve jury questions.
The appointment of guardians and conservators is governed by Article 14 of Title 15 of the Colorado Revised Statutes. A conservator is an individual or institution appointed to supervise the financial affairs of an impaired person. While most conservatorships involve adult protected persons, some involve children, most often where a parent seeks to settle a minor child's personal injury claim. Like many matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the Probate Court, conservatorships require long-term Court supervision. The Court may require regular accountings or other types of reports. Frequently, the Court adds a layer of protection by prohibiting withdrawals from the protected person's accounts or sale of the protected person's property without Court approval.
Increasingly, the Probate Court confronts issues of physical or mental disability and is called upon to appoint a guardian for individuals, who, because of illness, accident, or other circumstances, have lost the ability to make responsible decisions about their own living arrangements and medical needs. As with protective proceedings, these cases can generate family conflict and focus the Court's attention on the balance between the desire for individual liberty and the best interests of a person at risk.
Although the Probate Court no longer adjudicates persons as mentally ill, the Court does review requests to terminate Certification for Treatment by a mental health professional. Article 10 of Title 27 of the Colorado Revised Statutes governs these and other related matters. Mental health cases involve the short-term and long-term certification of persons claimed to be so mentally ill as to represent a danger to themselves or to others or who are found by the Court to be gravely disabled. While certified, a mentally ill person may be treated, involuntarily if necessary, at a state approved facility. The Respondent may be treated in a hospital setting or as an outpatient. The Court may be called upon to determine whether medications or electro-convulsive therapy should be administered to a certified mentally ill person. In addition to reviewing the treatment of mentally ill persons, the Court also considers requests to commit persons for involuntary alcohol or drug treatment.