Politics & Policy - The Spot Blog

A state senator plans to introduce legislation next year that would provide greater protection to families who saw their estates diminished or wiped out by court-appointed fiduciaries.

Laura Woods, an Arvada Republican, took statements from about two dozen people who went Wednesday to a hearing about probate reform. A Senate Democrat, Pat Steadman of Denver, joined her and took notes as family members angrily recounted personal stories.

The senators got about 50 suggestions. Woods said afterward that bipartisan probate court legislation "absolutely" will be on the Senate agenda next year.

The overall goal will be to protect families involved in the probate system, she said. She said those she has met see this pattern: "Instigate, litigate, isolate, medicate, liquidate, take the estate — celebrate."

Woods would like to see an outside review triggered automatically when a certain portion of an estate, perhaps as low as 10 percent, has been spent by a court-appointed fiduciary.

That might have helped Diego Conde, a 20-year-old man who came to the United States from Colombia at age 3.

Conde said his mother built a house-cleaning business and saved $20,000 for his college education before she died of stomach cancer. At 12, he became a foster child, he said, and a lawyer named Tamra Palmer was assigned to conserve his money.

When he went to college, "I had trouble getting her on the phone. My bills weren't getting paid on time. I got an eviction notice."

He said he was too embarrassed to ask classmates for food and soon learned that all his money was gone after Palmer deducted her fees.