How to Hire a Colorado Probate Lawyer for Free (or Nearly Free) to Protect Your Inheritance
I get it--nobody likes paying lawyers. But what if I told you that you may not need to pay your Colorado probate lawyer if you are successful in protecting your inheritance? If you are in the unpleasant position of having to challenge the validity, interpretation, or distribution under a will or otherwise question the administration of an estate, Colorado probate law permits a party to have their attorney's fees reimbursed by the estate of the deceased under certain circumstances.
The trick is to "confer a benefit" upon the estate. C.R.S. § 15-10-602. You may be saying to yourself that sounds fairly amorphous and vague, and you would be right. However, this relatively broad requirement means that the number of accomplished objectives that qualify as a conferring a benefit is limited only by your creativity and persuasiveness with the judge. The Colorado statute provides a few non-exhaustive examples of what would qualify as providing a benefit: "significantly increasing or preventing a significant decrease in the size of the estate, preventing or exposing maladministration or a material breach of fiduciary duty, or clarifying and upholding a decedent's, settlor’s, principal's, respondent's, ward's, or protected person's intent with respect to a material issue in dispute."
Thus, depending on the context, if you are successful in protecting your interests in your inheritance, you can make an argument to the judge that the attorney's fees and costs you paid should be reimbursed by the deceased person's estate. If the judge agrees that the estate was benefitted by your actions, the judge will consider the amount of attorney's fees and costs you paid (and any objections about the reasonableness of those fees) and issue an award for the amount the Court determines is reasonable. This amount may be a portion of what you have paid or all of it, but the end result is that your net payment to your probate lawyer could be $0 or close to it!
So if you are wondering whether it would be worth it to hire a lawyer to fight on your behalf for your inheritance, the question you should be asking yourself is how strong is my case? How certain are you that the decedent was in his or her right state of mind when they executed their will? Is the will valid? Is it clear that the personal representative has been ripping you off? Do you think you can clarify the decedent's intent?
Of course, there are other considerations too, such as the size of the estate and the size of your current distribution (if any). But if you feel that the facts are on your side, contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case. Don't let concerns about affording a lawyer stop you from vigorously attempting to protect your inheritance!