Beren v. BerenAnnotate this Case
The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether (and to what extent) the Colorado Probate Code displaced a court's authority to award an equitable adjustment supplementing a spouse's elective share of the decedent's estate. By the date of final distribution, the estate at issue here had grown in value from $73 million to more than $250 million. The probate court concluded that it would have been unfair for the elective share to be "frozen in time" while litigation concerning its computation eroded its value in relation to the appreciating estate. The Court exercised its equitable authority by supplementing the elective share, and awarded the surviving spouse $26 million plus an equitable award of approximately $24.5 million. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Probate Code displaced the probate court's authority with regard to the elective share, as a matter of law. Reading the elective-share statutes together with the probate court's equitable authority, the Supreme Court concluded that the Code's plain language demonstrated that 15-11-202(1) C.R.S. (2014), fixed the value of the property comprising the augmented estate on the decedent's date of death. Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded the probate court erred in linking its equitable award to appreciation and income to the entire augmented estate. Nevertheless, 15-10-103 expressly reserved the probate court's equitable authority to the extent that it was not displaced by a specific statutory provision. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part the court of appeals' judgment, and remanded this case. The court of appeals judgment requiring the surviving spouse repay $24.4 million was set aside, and the probate court was mandated to determine on remand what equitable relief was available under the specific facts of this case.