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In re Estate of King

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Third Division

May 23, 2019

In re the Estate of Mark M. King, deceased. Julie M. King, Appellant,
v.
Carylyn K. Bell, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Mark M. King; Michael McCandish King; and Colton McCandish King, Appellees.

          Arapahoe County District Court No. 16PR30695 Honorable H. Clay Hurst, Magistrate

          Jones & Keller, P.C., G. Stephen Long, Denver, Colorado, for Appellant.

          Springer and Steinberg, P.C., Jeffrey A. Springer, Craig L. Pankratz, Denver Colorado, for Appellee Carylyn K. Bell.

          Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP, Carrie E. Johnson, Denver, Colorado, for Appellees Michael McCandish King and Colton McCandish King.

          OPINION

          ROMÁN JUDGE.

         ¶ 1 This appeal presents a probate question of first impression in Colorado: Does the omitted spouse statute, section 15-11-301(1)(c), C.R.S. 2018, preclude a surviving spouse from claiming an intestate share of the decedent's estate where the decedent did not mention the surviving spouse of ten months in his will but did leave her $4, 000, 000 in life insurance proceeds and $52, 000 in joint bank accounts? Applying section 15-11-301, we conclude that the answer is yes. Therefore, we affirm.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 Julie M. King (surviving spouse) filed a "Petition for an Omitted Spouse Share," contending that she was unintentionally disinherited from the estate of Mark M. King (decedent) and, therefore, entitled to "$163, 000.00 (indexed for inflation) . . . plus 50% of the balance of the estate." The personal representative, decedent's sister Carylyn K. Bell, and decedent's children, Michael McCandish King and Colton McCandish King (collectively, the estate), opposed the petition, arguing that surviving spouse's omission was intentional because decedent provided for her outside of the will - namely, through $4, 462, 806 she received in life insurance proceeds and joint bank accounts.[1]

         ¶ 3 The magistrate held an evidentiary hearing. Following the hearing, the magistrate entered a written order regarding the Petition for an Omitted Spouse Share. The magistrate found the following.

         ¶ 4 Decedent established his estate plan in 2000. In doing so, he created a pourover will and the Mark M. King Revocable Trust. Decedent also executed three codicils to the will and amended the trust three times.

         ¶ 5 In May 2015, decedent and his first wife divorced. Decedent and surviving spouse began dating, and by July 2015 decedent regarded surviving spouse as his "partner." On July 27, 2015, decedent obtained a $5, 000, 000 life insurance policy and designated surviving spouse, then known as Julie Pelletier, to receive $4, 000, 000 of the policy and another friend, Jana Olsen, to receive the other $1, 000, 000.

         ¶ 6 Decedent and surviving spouse married six weeks later, on September 16, 2015. Decedent did not amend his will or trust documents.

         ¶ 7 But, eight months later, on May 19, 2016, decedent did amend the $4, 000, 000 life insurance policy to reflect his new spouse. Specifically, he wrote to the Northwestern Mutual Insurance Company about amending the life insurance policy:

I just looked at insurance summary and it was not clear that my Wife Julie Michelle King is the beneficiary of the $4mm of the $5mmm policy. First it shows her maiden name of Pelletier but second does not specify her allocation of 80% of the policy. Can you please correct her name change and send a policy that provides that she is beneficiary, Thanks Mark King.

         Decedent passed away two months later.

         ¶ 8 In addition to the $4, 000, 000 life insurance policy, surviving spouse received about $52, 000 contained in joint bank accounts and $410, 806 from decedent's retirement plans.[2] In total, surviving spouse received $4, 462, 806. Conversely, according to decedent's will, eighty-five percent of decedent's estate poured into the Mark M. King Revocable Trust for his children and fifteen percent went to other family members and charity.[3]

         ¶ 9 Based on these findings, the magistrate concluded that surviving spouse was not an omitted spouse. This appeal followed. See C.R.M. 7(b).

         II. Entitlement of Surviving Spouse: Effect of Premarital Will

         A. Standard of Review

         ¶ 10 We review a judgment entered after a trial to the court as a mixed question of fact and law. Jehly v. Brown, 2014 COA 39, ΒΆ 8. "We defer to the court's credibility determinations and will disturb its findings of fact only if they are clearly erroneous and not supported by the record. . . . We review de novo the court's application of the ...


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