Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC welcomes paralegal Kristi Knowles

Kristi 120X150 2Born and raised in Sterling, Colorado, Kristi is the firm’s lead business and transactions paralegal and primarily supports attorney Fred Otis.  Kristi has 28 years of transactional and litigation experience in Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona.  She worked as the assistant to the managing partner of Arizona’s oldest and second largest law firm for seven years, and in that capacity assisted seller’s counsel in one of the largest real estate transactions in the state’s history.  Kristi also has extensive experience in civil litigation and jury trials.

“We are excited to bring a paralegal of Kristi’s caliber and with her extraordinary talents back to the firm,” says managing member Jennifer Lynn Peters.  “Her knowledge and skill will be a valuable resource to our real estate and business clients and our overall team.”

Kristi can be reached at kknowles@nocoattorneys.com or 970-330-6700.

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Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC provides real estate and business law services throughout Northern Colorado.  OBP has 12 attorneys serving its two offices in Greeley and Loveland.  For more information, please visit www.nocoattorneys.com.

The Million Dollar Comma

Brandy 120X180The Million Dollar Comma

By: Brandy E. Natalzia

With the advent of legal service websites like Legal Zoom, Rocket Lawyer, nolo.com, etc., almost anyone can draft a will, a durable power of attorney, or a real estate contract.  People can even set up a limited liability company and draft their own divorce documents.  The advent of “cost effective” online legal services should be signaling the demise of the brick and mortar, flesh and blood attorney, right?

We’ve all heard the old adages:  “Pay now or pay later” and “Just enough information to be dangerous.”  That has never been more applicable than with the proliferation of self-help legal websites.  These websites offer form banks for standard documents and general legal and/or statutory guidelines.  But there are times when that may not be enough.  Have you ever heard of the “Million Dollar Comma”?  Often touted as rumor or some sort of urban legend, it is anything but.

One part of the U.S. Tariff Act of June 6, 1872 contained a sentence that intended to exempt the importation of semi-tropical and tropical fruit plants from tariffs. The sentence was meant to read “Fruit plants, tropical and semi-tropical for the purpose of propagation or cultivation.” One comma, however, was mysteriously moved one word to the left during the copying process, thereby rendering the sentence as: “Fruit, plants tropical and semi-tropical for the purpose of propagation or cultivation.”

Importers of oranges and lemons and the like were quick to seize upon the misplacement and use it to their advantage. They contended that under the wording of the act, all tropical and semi-tropical fruit were exempt and thus could be brought into the U.S. without payment of the tariffs.

The Treasury initially ruled against this interpretation, but then later reversed itself and sided with the fruit importers. Most of the monies collected as duty on the import of tropical and semi-tropical fruit while the errant comma was in effect were refunded to those who had paid the fee.  That memorable punctuation error deprived the U.S. government of an estimated $1 million in revenues.

Of course, most of us aren’t dealing with something on the scale of the above example and that really isn’t a case of not having adequate legal representation; however, similar consequences are well within the realm of possibility for anyone.  Imagine, for example, that you have a modest estate and you love all three of your children equally.  Your spouse predeceased you and you would like to update your will to reflect your current situation.  So, you go online with the best intentions to draft a simple will that divides your estate equally among your three children.  You draft your will to leave your entire estate “to Child A, Child B and Child C, in equal shares.”  Despite your intentions, what you have now done constructively is to give Child A half of your estate while Child B and Child C will be left to divide the other half.  The proper drafting to achieve your desired result would have been to leave your entire estate “to Child A, Child B, and Child C, in equal shares.”  Thus, each child would thereby receive 33 1/3% of your estate. While this simple punctuation mistake may be overlooked by many, this missing comma could provide an heir with the legal grounds to contest the will.  What was intended to be a simple will could potentially result in a contentious and costly court battle.

Legal websites will tell you that drafting basic legal documents rarely involves complicated legal rules and most people do not need a lawyer’s help to draft those types of documents.  While that may be true, it’s not always the “complicated legal rules” that you need to look out for.  Sometimes it just may be worth it to pay a professional for that added peace of mind.

 

Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC welcomes attorney Shannan de Jesús

1Shannan de Jesús joins the firm as a litigation associate, after working for the Larimer County Justice Center for over four years. There, she worked as a law clerk for the Honorable Dave Williams (retired) and the Honorable Michelle Brinegar, assisting with numerous trials and cases involving claims of construction defects, dissolution of business, and others.

Before moving to Colorado, Shannan lived in the South and New England. She earned her J.D. and LL.M. in Intellectual Property from Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire (now the University of New Hampshire School of Law).  During her studies at FPLC, Shannan studied comparative intellectual property law at a summer program in Cork, Ireland; externed for the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office; and represented small businesses as a student attorney through the Intellectual Property Clinic.

After graduating from law school, she worked as a staff attorney for the First Circuit of Florida courts; as an attorney ad litem for Lawyers for Children America; and on various pretrial and real estate matters for firms in Florida. She is admitted to practice in Colorado and Florida.

Shannan recently served on the Parks, Recreation and Culture Advisory Board for the Town of Windsor, supports CASA of Larimer County and the Northern Colorado food banks, and looks forward to being more involved in the community. She is also a member of the Larimer County Women’s Bar Association, the Colorado Bar Association, and the American Bar Association.

Her practice at Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC will focus on all areas of real estate and business litigation, with a focus on intellectual property issues.

Attorney Lee J. Morehead Graduates from Leadership Weld County

LeeJMorehead_120x150Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC is proud to announce that attorney Lee J. Morehead has successfully completed Leadership Weld County.  He formally graduated from the program on May 14, 2015.

Leadership Weld County was established in 1984 by the Greeley Chamber of Commerce. This program is designed to educate participants in economic, government, and community development as well as heighten the awareness of natural resource challenges facing Greeley and Weld County today.  The goal is to better equip participants for future leadership roles in the community.  This program was put in place to ensure that members of the Greeley and surrounding Weld County community continue to identify, educate, and motivate current and emerging leaders.

“Leadership Weld County is a truly wonderful program that all leaders in Weld County should attend; the leadership skills learned are truly invaluable,” says Morehead.  “It was a pleasure to meet and get to know all my fellow participants and I look forward to working with them again in the future.”

Mr. Morehead’s practice at Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC focuses on oil and gas, general business transactions, probate administration, employment law, and related litigation matters.

Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC provides real estate and business law services throughout Northern Colorado.  OBP has 11 attorneys serving its two offices in Greeley and Loveland.

Trust – Probate

By: Timothy P. Brynteson

 

Estate planning attorneys are frequently asked by clients to explain the difference between a “will” and a “trust.”  This is normally in the context of planning for the disposition of assets upon the client’s death – so we surmise that clients are looking for information regarding the differences between and the benefits of both Wills and Living Trusts as testamentary instruments.   Many times, our clients will have the general impression that Living Trusts are “better” than Wills and have a notion that they may save taxes, may protect assets in some way, insure privacy and avoid probate, but they aren’t sure and want to understand how they work; and frequently, what we think of them.

Let me state at the outset that my bias is, more often than not, to guide our clients towards a Will as the basic testamentary instrument.   While Living Trusts certainly have their place, we don’t favor them as the default testamentary vehicle for reasons we will explain below.   However, we have drafted many Living Trusts and believe they are the most appropriate instrument in certain circumstances.  Of course, if a client really wants to work with a Living Trust as their preferred document, we will be happy to work with them.  After all, there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to make these plans.   Either document can help a client achieve most common estate planning objectives.  The rest of this article will briefly describe probate and wills, and some of the benefits of Living Trusts, along with some of the perils – as opposed to Wills.  Second, it will describe the situations in which Living Trusts may be preferable to a Will.

Probate and Wills

Before we discuss Revocable Living Trusts, it will be important to understand the probate process in our legal system and its role in property transfers.  When a person dies owning property, particularly “real property” (real estate) or titled property (automobiles, trailers, bank and investment accounts) – and the property is intended to be given to heirs or other devisees – how can this be done if the owner is dead?  The answer is through the probate process in most states.  “Probate” comes from the latin verb “probare” which means to “prove, try, test or examine.”   It is basically the process of submitting a will to the court for “testing” and distributing the assets as provided in the will of the deceased.  In Colorado, Personal Representative, named in the Will, is appointed as the responsible party by the Court.  This appointment grants the Personal Representative the authority to pay bills, settle accounts and distribute any property.  The process in Colorado (and most states) is fairly simple, inexpensive and un-intrusive.  Unless there are conflicts, the Court is not involved and the Personal Representative can handle most of the work, paying bills and distributing property according to the plan detailed in the Will.  However, for various reasons, some people would still like to avoid the probate process.  One way to do avoid the probate process is by establishing, and importantly, fully funding, a Living Trust.

Revocable Living Trusts

Essentially, a Revocable Living Trust is an entity into which one places all, or most, of one’s assets.  As the name implies, the trust can be amended or fully revoked at any time as long as you are alive.  The trust document, or “agreement” will normally give the grantor full control over all the assets and income in the trust.  In other words, your control over the assets doesn’t change, they are simply “owned” by the trust rather than you as an individual.  Ownership by the trust rather than the individual is what gives rise to both the benefits and potential problems of a Living Trust.

Because your assets are owned by the Trust rather than by you as an individual, the Trust doesn’t “die” when you do.  Therefore, when you pass away, your successor trustee (named in the Trust Agreement) simply takes over managing your assets and/or distributing them as you direct in the Trust Agreement.  In this way, the Living Trust avoid probate – there is no Will to “prove” and follow.   A related benefit is that even if you don’t die, but if you either cannot, or will not, manage your financial affairs, your successor trustee (hopefully someone you trust) can step in and manage your affairs i.e. pay bills, manage property and investments and otherwise contract on your behalf.

These benefits are only available if all of your assets are actually in the name of the trust.  This is the area where, in our experience, people may lose the potential benefits of a Living Trust.  Over  time, it is difficult to remember to have all your assets place in the name of the trust.  Bank accounts, real estate, investment accounts, life insurance, retirement accounts . . . all need to be owned by the Trust.  Sometimes, this just isn’t done at the beginning, or even if it is, over time, assets are bought and sold and habit takes over . . . people tend to forget to put them in the name of the trust.  If there are assets titled outside the Trust, at death, it may be necessary to open probate to handle those assets, thus defeating some of the benefits of a Trust.  In addition to requiring a bit more effort manage, Living Trusts typically cost more at the outset to set up than a Will which accomplish the same goals for the client.

Benefits of a Trust

Despite some of the burdens of preparing and administering a trust, there are two significant benefits to a Living Trust.  The first is for people who own real property titled in a different state.  Owning that property in a Living Trust rather than individually will allow that property to be distributed or managed after death without requiring opening a probate case in that state.  As stated earlier, the Trust does not “die” and so whomever is successor trustee may simply sell or otherwise manage the property without Court approval through the probate process in that state.

The second benefit is for individuals who are concerned about the management of their assets when they either lose capacity or interest.  While a Durable Power of Attorney can provide a trusted individual the necessary authority to manage one’s financial affairs, a Successor Trustee taking over under a trust agreement can be a simpler and smoother process.

Conclusion

Both Wills and Living Trusts can be effective documents for passing assets to heirs and devisees and both may be used to avoid or minimize estate taxes if properly drafted.  Living Trusts may provide the benefit of simpler management of assets by a third party (a successor trustee) during your incapacity than is sometimes available under only a Power of Attorney; and Living Trusts can help you avoid probate in a different state if you own property there.  Living Trusts will typically cost more to draft at the beginning and transfer your assets into the trust and can be more cumbersome to manage during your life.   Both documents (along with a power of attorney) are effective tools for clients and attorneys in planning for a client’s death and/or disability – it will be up to you and your counsel to decide on the right approach for your circumstances.

Greeley, Colorado – Attorney Timothy R. Odil named one of Colorado’s “Lawyers of the Year”

???????????Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC is proud to announce that attorney Timothy R. Odil was recently named one of Colorado’s “Lawyers of the Year” by Law Week Colorado

Odil was selected based on his excellent work on a variety of litigation matters and his demonstrated initiative and teamwork.  The prestigious honor, which Law Week announces annually in December, recognizes Colorado lawyers who have displayed legal excellence and made news throughout the year. Receiving this distinction as a “Lawyer of the Year” reflects the high level of respect Odil has earned among other leading attorneys in the community and in similar practice areas for his abilities, his professionalism, and his integrity. Only a single lawyer in each practice area and designated metropolitan area is honored as a “Lawyer of the Year,” making this award particularly significant.

Odil is a key member of the firm’s litigation team. His practice focuses on disputes among private parties as well as disputes with local, state, or federal government agencies. He handles complex commercial litigation and appeals, government and commercial contract negotiation and disputes, regulatory compliance, licensing, and rulemaking issues, as well as employment law matters.  As OBP Partner Jennifer Lynn Peters noted, “In addition to handling a large complex litigation caseload, Tim stepped into the firm in the midst of big change, and in a year helped us build our litigation department from two to six lawyers, and the firm from two to 11 lawyers. His mentorship of the younger associates on our litigation team and his pure legal ability were unmatched this year.”

High pressure litigation isn’t anything new to Odil who practiced with a large national law firm for 8 years before he returned to Greeley to join the newly formed Otis, Bedingfield & Peters. Within his first year of starting at OBP Odil had upward of 10 active trial matters, including the notable High Plains Library District trustee removal litigation, which received significant news coverage earlier this year.  Odil helped the High Plains Library District secure an injunction that blocked the removal of the District’s entire Board of Trustees. This case is particularly high-profile because it pitted members of a handful of Northern Colorado communities against one another in an effort to control the District’s policies, organizational infrastructure, and budgeting processes.

The firm congratulates Odil on this well-deserved honor.

Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC advocates for individuals, businesses, and families in the Northern Colorado region. Our clients are landowners, business owners, business professionals, businesses of all sizes, and individual families in need of guidance or representation in court proceedings involving commercial real estate or business issues. OBP routinely handles matters in the areas of real estate law, business law, environmental law, oil and gas law, estate planning, commercial litigation, probate and trust litigation, appeals, and tax law. For more information, please visit www.nocoattorneys.com or contact Managing Partner Jennifer Lynn Peters at 970.330.6700.

Tim Odil Named a Lawyer of the Year

On December 15, 2014, Law Week Colorado named OBP commercial litigation attorney Tim Odil one of its Lawyers of the Year.  The honor is in recognition of Tim’s superior work this past year in both the trial court and the appellate court.  Congratulations Tim!

Read more at Law Week Online or check out our Facebook or Google+ page.

Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC Welcomes Attorney Brandy Natalzia

Attorney Brandy Natalzia

Attorney Brandy E. Natalzia recently relocated to Northern Colorado from Florida.  She is a former judicial intern for the Honorable Jay Cohen of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Honorable Marcia Morales Howard of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.  Brandy graduated, cum laude, from the University of North Florida, where she obtained her bachelor of arts degree in communication.  She obtained her law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law, where she served as the managing editor of the Florida Coastal Law Review.

Prior to joining Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, Brandy was an associate attorney with a small law firm in Jacksonville, Florida, and worked as a legal project manager.  Prior to law school, she worked for a national homebuilder for whom she prepared and implemented a successful training program for new home sales and dealt exclusively with contract preparation and negotiation.

“We are excited to bring an attorney like Brandy on board,” says Timothy P. Brynteson, managing member of OBP’s Loveland office.  “Her background and experience will enhance our ability to serve the Northern Colorado business community.”

Brandy’s practice at the firm will focus on real estate and business transactions, including the preparation, review and negotiation of contracts and entity formation.

Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC welcomes attorney Christian J. Schulte

ChristianSchulteAttorney Christian J. Schulte is a long-time resident of Greeley, and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia where he was awarded the National Merit Scholarship. Christian received his law degree at the University of Colorado School of Law in 1997, where he was an Associate Editor of the University of Colorado Law Review.

Prior to joining Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, Christian was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in the Weld County District Attorney’s office. Over his nearly twenty years in criminal prosecution, he handled hundreds of criminal cases as the lead trial attorney, and he trained numerous other attorneys in criminal law and the art of trial practice. Most recently, he was assigned to prosecute white collar and other serious economic crimes, including mortgage fraud, embezzlement, securities fraud and financial crimes against at-risk adults, particularly the victimization of the elderly by those in a position of trust.

Christian has been a board member and board chair of A Kid’s Place, and a board member of Island Grove Treatment Center and North Range Behavioral Health. He has taught law enforcement, high school and college students, and the general public about constitutional law, attorney ethics, elder abuse, mortgage fraud and other topics.

“We are thrilled to have an attorney of Christian’s caliber join our litigation team. Christian’s trial experience and his previous focus on business issues and the financial exploitation of the elderly will serve our clients well,” says Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC managing member Jennifer Lynn Peters.

Mr. Schulte’s practice at the firm will focus on complex commercial litigation, probate litigation and appeals.

Northern Colorado law firms Bedingfield, LLC and Otis & Peters, LLC merge

Attorneys Fred L. Otis, Jeff Bedingfield and Jennifer Lynn Peters are excited to announce the merger of their firms effective October 1, 2014.  The combined firm, Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC, will be home to ten attorneys and ten support staff spread across the firm’s two offices in Loveland and Greeley

“This merger strengthens our business law presence with a team of attorneys who are perfectly aligned with us,” said managing member Jennifer Lynn Peters, who added:  “There are considerable synergies between the two firms.  We share a commitment to excellence, building personal relationships, and to Northern Colorado.  Combining will allow us to further that commitment and to serve our clients with exceptional efficiency.”

The combined firm will provide clients throughout Northern Colorado practical and solutions-based legal representation in real estate and business matters, including commercial litigation, appeals, employment, environmental, oil and gas, estate planning, business succession, and tax matters. 

“We have had long standing working relationships with Otis & Peters,” said member Jeff Bedingfield.  “We look forward to working together with them to offer our clients the added resources and expertise this merger brings.”

Otis, Bedingfield & Peters, LLC will be home to the following attorneys:

Fred L. Otis, Member

Jeffrey T. Bedingfield, Member

Jennifer Lynn Peters, Member

Timothy P. Brynteson, Member

John A. Kolanz, Member

Michael D. Stewart, Of Counsel

Timothy R. Odil, Senior Associate

Lee J. Morehead, Associate

Myles S. Johnson, Associate

 

Attorney Christian J. Schulte, will join the firm as a senior associate on October 16, 2014.