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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
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March 8, 1999: Brand Inspectors do Exist; Intestate Probate

Q: We just moved to Fort Collins from out-of-state and have been trying to absorb all of the local color. Last week I took the kids to a livestock auction and met someone who called himself a "brand inspector." Come on now, is there really such a thing? Or is this one of those archaic bureaucratic jobs that are given out as political patronage?

A: Now you just hold your horses there, Pilgrim. This ain't no wild and woolly west of yesteryear. But there's rustlin' a goin' on in them thar hills and out on the lone prairie. (Sorry that was my best shot at a John Wayne/Gabby Hayes impression.)

This is serious stuff. Selling and/or transporting an animal or animals improperly could be at least a Class I misdemeanor and may be a felony, triggering a minimum fine of $250 and/or up to 90 days in jail for the first offense. (I did not find any statutory authorization for a necktie party at the closest cottonwood.)

There are three brand inspectors assigned to Larimer County. It is their job to do an inspection when any change of ownership occurs primarily involving horses, cattle, donkeys, and mules (could happen), even if the animal or animals remain in the same corral. In addition, even if no sale occurs, every time a covered animal leaves Colorado or is transported more than 75 miles, an inspection is required. In fact, for any time livestock is being hauled on a public road, proof of ownership must be available.

Now this all seems to many people much ado about nothing, but I can assure you that someone can suddenly have his or her day ruined if caught violating the statute, even if the only animal involved is that club calf or pony you purchased for the kids.

Since you seem to be interested in Fort Collins' western heritage, I might suggest that it could be fun for the kids and you to take part in one of the local cattle drives or at least a branding (tagging or marking) and vaccination round- up that will be taking place in the area. If you do, let me test you to see how many legal issues you can spot.

Q: My husband just died right before the closing on our house. I was shocked to learn that the house was titled in tenants in common, not joint tenancy. We did not spend money for Wills because we were told by a Greeley attorney that since everything we own was in joint tenancy (the lawyer never looked at our documents but just took my husband's word for it), we did not need Wills. Now the realtor says it is impossible to having the closing tomorrow because we have to go to Court in an "intestate" proceeding that could drag on for months or even years.

A: Your realtor is correct about intestate probates in most states, but not here. In Colorado, the Personal Representative has immediate authority to transfer property and our local probate clerk is very understanding and easy to work with, especially in an emergency. Just have your attorney fill out the four simple probate forms, take them down to the District Court Clerk's office today, and within minutes you should have the authority to do the closing.

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