Choosing Beneficiaries for Your Colorado Will: Who Should Gain?

Filed Under (Wills and Estates) on 29-03-2012

Once you have figured out what items in your estate you have to leave to someone, the next step is to decide to who gets what. This is really the fun part of making a will–giving gifts to the people and organizations that mean the most to you. Whoever or whatever receives a gift from you is your beneficiary.

What is the difference between an heir and a beneficiary?

Heirs are the people who are entitled to part of your estate if you die without a will; usually your spouse, kids, and parents. Beneficiaries include everyone who will benefit from your will, including your spouse, kids, etc. If you’re reading this blog you understand the importance of writing a will—which means you should not be dying without one. Therefore, we will continue to use the word beneficiaries.

There are four types of beneficiaries Continue reading “Choosing Beneficiaries for Your Colorado Will: Who Should Gain?” »

What Landlords Need to Know About Medical Marijuana in Colorado

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 27-03-2012

In light of the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries near Colorado schools, landlords may be wondering if they can and should bar pot smoking on their property.

In Colorado, patients with a medical need can possess up to two ounces of marijuana. Individuals deemed “caregivers” can also possess up to six plants. As of last November, more than 161,000 Coloradans had applied for state cards as certified marijuana users. So what does this mean for residential landlords?

Q. Because of the law – and the number of people with “certified user” cards – am I now required to rent to medical marijuana users?

A. No. First, just because something is legal under Colorado law doesn’t mean you have to allow it in your property – for instance, you can prohibit smoking, or dogs and cats, or loud parties.

The only thing you must do is follow the federal Fair Housing Act, and local ordinances in specific Colorado counties, that bar landlords from discriminating against potential tenants because of race, color, sex, marital status, family status, disabilities or religion. Continue reading “What Landlords Need to Know About Medical Marijuana in Colorado” »

What is Probate

Filed Under (Probate) on 22-03-2012

Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies. It governs how bills are paid and how friends and relatives inherit property and money.  Probate isn’t fast – it can last six months to a year, but it isn’t necessarily bewildering. A lot depends on the size and complexity of the deceased person’s estate. You may not need a lawyer to go through probate; instead, you can do it yourself.

There are specific Probate forms that the personal representative will need to file with the court in the county where the decedent lived.

How does the probate process work?

Probate can be pretty simple.  After your family member dies, the person named in the will as personal representative (executor) files papers in the appropriate court.  In most counties, the probate case is filed with the clerk of the district court. The one exception is in the City and County of Denver, where the case should be filed with the clerk of the Denver Probate Court. The personal representative proves that the will is valid and presents the county with a list of the deceased person’s property and debts, and a list of who inherits what’s left.

Then, the personal representative must find, take possession of and manage the deceased person’s assets, which can take some time.  If there are a lot of unpaid bills, the personal representative may need to sell real estate or stocks and bonds to pay off those debts.

Eventually, the court will grant the personal representative permission to settle the estate and divide the remainder among inheritors, and property will be transferred to beneficiaries.

How long does probate take?

Probate can take at least six months and up to a year.

Do we have to go through probate?

It depends on how much the deceased’s property and estate are worth. 

If the estate includes any real estate holdings then it will have to go through the probate process.  However, if there’s no real estate involved, and, after bills are paid, the estate is worth $60,000 or less, there is a simpler process. For these small estates, you fill out the Collection of Personal Property by Affidavit form (also known as a Small Estate Affidavit). In this form, you swear that that you are a successor to the decedent and you list other successors who are entitled to a percentage of the decedent’s money or tangible personal property.  You can then distribute the personal property in accordance with the Affidavit.

For more information, get Bradford’s helpful booklet, “Guide to Probate in Colorado.” Bradford also has all the forms needed to probate and estate, in printed form or downloaded from the website.

The Benefits of Filing a Mechanics’ Lien in Colorado

Filed Under (Mechanics Liens) on 19-03-2012

If you haven’t been paid for work you did on a construction project, filing a Colorado mechanics’ lien is a potent weapon at your fingertips. There are few collection tools more effective in Colorado law than filing a mechanic’s lien.

A mechanics’ lien (sometimes called a construction lien) is a security interest in the title of a property for the benefit of those who have worked on the property. When it is recorded in county real estate records it attaches to the property. If your mechanics’ lien rights have been properly asserted, the property owner cannot sell any part of the property without clearing up the recorded and outstanding mechanics’ liens.

If your dispute is with a project under construction, the developer may not be able to get permanent financing if a mechanic’s lien is recorded against the project. That means the owner/ developer cannot sell the project or any units and cannot finance it. In short, filing a Colorado mechanic’s lien forces the developer to address your unpaid bills.

Which liens get paid first?

Under Colorado real estate law, liens, deeds of trust, and mortgages get paid in the order in which they were recorded. Colorado mechanics’ lien law says that mechanics’ liens are held as recorded as of the time that the first work began on the project. Architects, engineers, surveyors, or soil testing experts often complete the first work on a construction project and this type of preliminary work often occurs before the construction loan is put in place.

As a result, mechanics’ liens have priority over a deed of trust or mortgage recorded after the work was commenced and can take precedence over the construction loan. Because banks and lending institutions will not permit mechanics’ liens to be placed ahead of the deed of trust securing the construction loan, the mere recording of a mechanics’ lien will often cause the construction lender to pressure the owner or developer to pay their bills.

To learn more about mechanic’s liens, get Bradford Publishing’s helpful booklet, “Know Your Mechanics’ Lien Rights: A Guide to Colorado Law,” that will give you an overview of the legal process, and provide guidance and instructions about basic mechanics’ lien forms.

Are Your HOA Fees Sky-High? What to Do if Your HOA Board Wants to Increase Dues

Filed Under (Real Estate) on 15-03-2012

To raise dues in Colorado, your board must first win approval for a new budget. Most of the time, homeowners pay little attention to the annual HOA budget or budget meeting. But if dues, officially known as “common interest community assessments,” are set to increase, the budget becomes a hot topic.

Here’s how it works: First, the HOA board adopts a proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Then, within 90 days, it will send you a budget summary as well as notification of a members’ meeting. At that meeting, you can vote on the proposed budget.

Your particular community declaration might call for a positive vote of the members to approve the budget. If it doesn’t, then the proposed budget will be adopted unless vetoed by a majority of members. Continue reading “Are Your HOA Fees Sky-High? What to Do if Your HOA Board Wants to Increase Dues” »

Remaining Friends After Divorce

Filed Under (Divorce and Legal Separation) on 13-03-2012


Although some may find it hard to believe, friendly divorce in Colorado is not an oxymoron.  Some couples trust each other and communicate reasonably well and still want to split up. If this is your case, you can do it yourself with mediation.

What happens in divorce mediation?

In mediation, you and your soon-to-be ex negotiate with each other in the presence of the mediator—who is neutral. After you gather all the papers that show your incomes, assets and debts, you bring them to the mediation meeting, display them openly and work together to write your separation agreement, and your parenting plan if you have children.

What is the mediator’s job?

The mediator helps focus the conversation; explain the process; show you different ways of doing things so you can consider a variety of options; and helps each of you hear what the other person is saying. But YOU still make the decisions. Mediation is a good way to stay in charge of making your own decisions, while getting help in putting together a separation agreement.

What if it’s not so friendly?

You would likely use divorce attorneys if you’re not getting along well, but you still might end up in mediation. Many courts now order mediation in nearly every case where parenting or change of parenting is an issue, or for modification of child support or maintenance.

For more information about divorce mediation, check out the “Friendly Divorce Guidebook for Colorado” by M. Arden Hauer, MA, JD

Ten Questions to Ask a Limited Representation Lawyer

Filed Under (Bradford Publishing News & Updates) on 08-03-2012

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Hiring a lawyer to represent you on alimited representationbasis (a.k.a. unbundled services, a la carte legal services) is different than hiring a full representation lawyer. Foremost, it’s less expensive. Also, the attorney’s courtroom skills might be less important than his or her advisory and writing skills. No matter what, make sure a lawyer is a good fit for you and has your best interests in mind.

If you’re considering limited representation, ask these questions to determine if a particular lawyer is right for you and your situation.

1) How long have you been a lawyer and how long have you been offering unbundled services?

2) What types of cases do you handle in an unbundled manner?

3) Have you found that limited representation works for other people or clients?

4) Do you have any reservations in offering unbundled services for my case or me?

5) What should I be thinking about when I consider contracting you on an unbundled or full-service basis? Continue reading “Ten Questions to Ask a Limited Representation Lawyer” »

Bedbugs in Your Colorado Rental Properties

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 06-03-2012

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Unless you were alive during World War II, you’ve likely never seen or experienced Cimex lectularius – the common bedbug.  Due to international travel and reduced use of DDT, bedbugs are back. Small, reddish-brown and oval, these bloodsucking pests are showing up in apartment units, movie theatres, hotels and college campuses nationwide. 

Not only do bedbugs bite and leave red bumps that swell and itch for up to a week, they are difficult and expensive to eradicate.  Once they are in a property, they can migrate from unit to unit. 

As a landlord, your first concern should be preventing bedbugs’ arrival.  And, if your tenant reports bedbugs, you should take immediate steps to eradicate them. A second concern may be creating a framework that limits legal liability in the event of an infestation and requires tenants to take preventive measures against bedbugs.

Pests and Colorado’s Warranty of Habitability Law

Colorado’s Implied Warranty of Habitability Act  says, in essence, that when you sign a lease, you promise that your unit is fit to be lived in.  These requirements call for extermination services if there is any sign of pests, rodents or other infestation.

If you suspect bedbugs on your property, schedule a proactive extermination.  Some pest control firms use dogs to sniff out the bugs and can provide a certificate attesting that your unit is pest-free. Continue reading “Bedbugs in Your Colorado Rental Properties” »

Who Do You Trust?

Filed Under (Power of Attorney) on 01-03-2012

Powers of attorney can be very useful, but they can also be very risky if you don’t understand the rights of control that you are transferring. The person you assign to control your assets can easily misuse that power—he or she could rob you blind and be gone before you or anybody else finds out.  Someone you name in your medical power of attorney can make life-and death decisions about your health care. Choosing the right person to act on your behalf is a serious decision and should not be taken lightly.

Who can sign a power of attorney?

Any adult who is mentally competent can sign a power of attorney. A person is mentally competent if he understands what property he controls, what powers over property he is giving to someone else, and who will exercise those powers after the power of attorney is signed. The person who signs a power of attorney is called the principal. The person who is being assigned the power to act for the principal is called the agent. Continue reading “Who Do You Trust?” »