Sometimes special circumstances require adults to seek care from other, more capable persons who have their best interest at heart. Whether the reasons stem from the development of a serious illness, or a mental or physical disability, some adults require an appointed guardian. Guardianship proceedings may be initiated by anyone interested in the welfare of the proposed ward. This includes anyone who indicates that the proposed ward may be incapacitated and in need of an appointed guardian.
An individual filing a petition for guardianship is required by Colorado statute to notify the proposed ward, along with the proposed ward’s:
- Spouse or partner in a civil union or, if the respondent has none, an adult with whom the respondent has resided for more than 6 months within 1 year before the filing of the petition; and
- Adult children and parents.
There are also requirements to notify legal representatives, caretakers, treating physicians, and all nominated guardians. It has been our experience at Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. that many guardianship proceeding notification lists fail to notify every required party. Most notably absent are the significant others of the proposed wards whom were not married nor residing with the proposed ward.
With increasing frequency, we see elderly individuals who are widowed and subsequently enter into relationships that do not lead to marriage. These couples often maintain their relationships on a long-term basis, sometimes for decades. The reasons the individuals do not choose to be married are usually numerous and personal. Nevertheless, a loving companion often serves as a close confidant, most trusted friend, and can become an indispensable part of a person’s life.
Under the current Colorado statute, the significant other of a proposed ward would not receive notice of the inception of a guardianship proceeding. And, when a guardian is appointed, there is a possibility that the guardian would interfere in the proposed ward’s relationship with his or her significant other. If an individual who is not entitled to notice under the statute would like to be added as an interested person in the guardianship proceeding, that individual may petition the court to be added as an “interested person” under C.R.S. § 15-14-116.
An interested person, as defined under C.R.S. § 15-10-201(27), may include any heirs, devisees, children, spouses, creditors, and beneficiaries. It could also extend to anyone else with a property right in, or claim against, a trust estate or estate of the ward that could be affected by the proceeding.
Sometimes a significant other will not fall within this definition because they may not have a property right or claim related to the ward’s assets. However, the definition of “interested person” also gives the court discretion to adapt based upon individual circumstances. At Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. , we believe this leaves an opening for a significant other to petition the court and explain why he or she should be added as an interested person in the guardianship proceeding.
Specifically, the definition of interested person states that “The meaning [of interested person] as it relates to the particular persons may vary from time to time and shall be determined according to the particular purposes of, and matter involved in, any proceeding.”
If you are the significant other of a proposed ward in a guardianship proceeding, we may be able to help you. Although you may not have a clear statutory right to notice, it could be beneficial to retain legal counsel to help navigate your rights with respect to your involvement in the proceedings. Our firm can also help you petition the court to be added as an interested person.
For legal help, contact Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. and speak with one of our attorneys.