The probate process for a personal injury settlement for minor or incapacitated individuals can be difficult to understand. In Colorado’s courts, when a minor or incapacitated individual is the beneficiary of a personal injury settlement, a probate court must approve the final payment in addition to the trial court. The approval process follows Rule 62 of the Colorado Rules of Probate Procedure.
Colorado’s Rule 62
Colorado’s Rule 62 protects the needs and interests of minors and incapacitated individuals who cannot speak for themselves. First, a settlement petition must be filed on behalf of the minor or incapacitated individual. After approving the petition, the court will hold a Rule 62 hearing to evaluate the proposed settlement and determine whether it’s in the beneficiary’s interests. The intent of the Rule 62 hearing is to protect the interests of beneficiaries from other parties, such as family members, insurance companies, and more. It will also outline the final settlement, any associated costs and fees, special terms and conditions, and liens, bills, or debts that may subtract from the settlement. Not everyone can file a settlement petition with the court. As a general rule, only a fiduciary for a respondent, a next friend, a guardian ad litem, or an interested party may fill this role. Additionally, if the court finds that an attorney or other individual has a conflict of interest, they may deny the petition or deem it unethical.
In the event that a family member of the minor or incapacitated person dies in the accident, plaintiffs have one year to file a wrongful death claim. If the minor or incapacitated person is a child of the deceased, they may file a wrongful death claim after the first year. Personal injury cases are not subject to this restriction.
Once both parties reach a settlement, the court may decide to further protect the minor or incapacitated person’s funds through a variety of means. Some of these include:
Restricted fiduciary accounts
Special needs trusts
The court may also appoint a guardian or conservator to speak for the minor or incapacitated person if they believe it’s necessary. Colorado statutes require that courts appoint a conservator if the total settlement funds exceed $10,000.
Colorado courts allow for a conservator to be appointed at the same time as the Rule 62 petition, if necessary. Once selected, the conservator in question must file reports annually that prove the beneficiary’s interests are being met.
A fiduciary must provide a receipt when collecting payments and sign binding release payments when the beneficiary collects their settlement.
While the Colorado Bar Association has some more helpful information about the duties of personal representatives here, the best way to navigate these responsibilities can be with the help of an experienced Denver probate and estate lawyer.
Get Exceptional Representation in Colorado Probate & Injury Settlements
Whether you are a personal representative, a beneficiary, or another party to a probate case, you can turn to a Denver probate and estate lawyer at Evans Case, LLP for superior representation and client-focused counsel. With more than a century of combined experience, our team is highly skilled at guiding clients through every phase of probate, no matter how complex or contentious a case may be.
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