In Colorado, when there is a settlement of a claim, such as a settlement in a personal injury, wrongful death, or medical malpractice case, and the person receiving the settlement proceeds is either a minor or person with a disability, state law requires that the settlement be approved by the courts. The settlement proceeds are considered to be a part of the minor or disabled person’s estate.
Probate Law Applies
Colorado Probate law governs the court’s approval and adoption of any settlement for a minor or disabled person. This approval process is governed by Colorado Rule of Probate Procedure 62, and is designed to protect the best interests of the minor or disabled person.
Rule 62 of the Colorado Rules of Probate Procedure applies to the approval of the settlement for minors and disabled persons. When a claim is being settled for a minor or disabled person, a settlement Petition must be filed with the court on behalf of the minor or disabled person in order to insure the best interests of the minor or disabled person are protected by the court and any conflicts of interest are avoided.
Once the settlement Petition is accepted by the court, a Rule 62 Hearing is held in order for the court to approve the settlement. The petition and hearing process are designed to make sure the best interests of the minor or disabled person are protected from undue influence from others, even family members. This is especially true where other family members may have been in the same automobile accident who may bring additional claims against the same person who caused the accident.
The court’s order from the Rule 62 Hearing will provide the necessary guidance to the parties in regard to the specific terms and conditions of the settlement, the approved fees and costs to be paid to the attorneys, any approved amounts to be paid to the medical providers/lienholders who may still have outstanding bills/liens from the care and treatment of the minor or disabled person and the net settlement proceeds to be provided to the minor or disabled person. There are various options to protect the net settlement funds to the minor or disabled person:
funds held in a fiduciary restricted account, when net settlement is less than $10,000.00.
appointment of a conservator when net settlement funds exceed $10,000.00;
trusts, e.g. disability trust
If the amount of money in the settlement proceeds to be distributed to the minor or disabled person are greater than $10,000.00, Colorado statute requires that the proceeds from the settlement be managed by a conservator who is appointed by the court to administer the proceeds on behalf of, and in the best interests of, the minor or disabled person. If a conservator is necessary, a separate petition and approval process is required to nominate and then appoint the conservator on behalf of the minor or disabled person. Often times the petition for the conservator is filed with the court at the same time as the Rule 62 settlement petition. Once appointed, the conservator acts as the financial protector of the estate of the minor or disabled person, and is required to file annual reports with the court to ensure the best interests of the minor or disabled person are followed.
The attorneys and staff are well versed in all areas of Probate court, including Rule 62 procedure. If you and your child are in the middle of a personal injury or malpractice claim, Evans Case can help you. Call today: 303-757-8300