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Pathbreaking Colorado law allows meaningful choices for designating beneficiaries | Hunter of Justice

Pathbreaking Colorado law allows meaningful choices for designating beneficiaries

by on May 22, 2009  •  In Family law, States

A huge HT to Nancy Polikoff, who has blogged (twice) about a remarkable new Colorado Designated Beneficiaries law that allows any two persons (not just couples) to file a list of preferences covering 15 separate benefits and protections that could arise around illness and death. Each individual simply checks off which benefits she wishes for the other person to receive. The form is then filed with the county clerk. It remains in effect until revoked or superseded. This process obviates the need for a will or power of attorney (at least within the state), and maximizes individual choice.

Here is how the form, which you can find at pp 9-11 of the law, begins:

WE, ____________________(name and address) REFERRED TO AS PARTY A, AND _________________ (name and address) REFERRED TO AS PARTY B, HEREBY DESIGNATE EACH OTHER AS THE OTHER'S DESIGNATED BENEFICIARY WITH THE FOLLOWING RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS GRANTED OR WITHHELD AS INDICATED BY OUR INITIALS:

Each party then initials in columns for Party A or Party B whether to grant or withhold a series of rights, including the following:

  • The right to be designated as beneficiary or dependent for health and life insurance;
  • The right to be designated as beneficiary or dependent in a retirement or pension plan;
  • The right to petition for and have priority for appointment as a conservator or guardian;
  • The right to visit in a hospital or other health care facility;
  • The right to make medical decisions for the other party, to be notified of withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures, and to direct the disposition of last remains;
  • The right to inherit real or personal property through intestate succession; and
  • The right to have standing to sue for wrongful death or to receive workers comp benefits.

Where these provisions conflict with a federal law (like DoMA or ERISA), they will probably not be honored. Some particulars could get complicated.  But in most situations, the designations should hold. Colorado has taken a giant step forward in reforming the interaction between a state and its citizens on issues of relationship recognition.

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