August 23, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Medical Evidence of Competency Not Required Under Conservatorship Statute

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In the Interest of Neher v. Neher on Thursday, July 30, 2015.

Special Conservator—Medical Expert—Stipulation—Witness Disclosure—Evidence.

After receiving several unsolicited e-mails asking for money, Galen Neher (father) sent almost $500,000 to anonymous offshore bank accounts. Suspecting fraud, Christopher Neher, his son, petitioned the court to appoint a special conservator over father’s financial affairs. Although there was no medical evidence to support the petition, the court appointed a conservator to oversee father’s financial affairs.

On appeal, father contended that the conservatorship statute requires medical evidence before a court can properly make a determination of whether an individual is impaired. Because the current statute does not include such a requirement and the prior statute was amended to remove language that might have suggested it, father’s argument was rejected.

Father also argued that the trial court committed reversible error by denying his motion to enforce an oral stipulation whereby father would retake control of his financial affairs but would be monitored by an accounting firm for a year. The parties later disagreed over the terms to be included in a written stipulation. Even assuming that the court should have found the oral stipulation enforceable, the court still proceeded consistent with that stipulation by holding a hearing on whether to make the conservatorship permanent. Therefore, the court did not err in denying father’s motion.

Father further contended that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion for a new trial. The court did not deny father a fair trial when it stopped the proceedings and directed counsel into chambers for discussion without the parties present. Further, his son’s late disclosure of an expert witness did not require reversal because father’s counsel failed to request a continuance. Finally, his son presented clear and convincing evidence that father was unable to manage property and business affairs. The orders appointing a permanent conservator over father’s estate and denying his motion for a new trial were affirmed.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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