Shelby Hughes is the 2017 summer clerk in our Casper, Wyoming office.  She attends the University of Wyoming College of Law and will graduate in the Spring of 2018.

Special Needs Trusts for Individuals with Disabilities

Special needs trusts are a helpful planning tool if a client has a disability or has family members or friends who are disabled. These kinds of trusts are designed to preserve a disabled person’s eligibility for government benefits. Monthly income and the value of resources in the person’s possession are evaluated to determine eligibility for certain government benefits. If disabled individuals receive public benefits, then it is possible that small inheritances or gifts may imperil their eligibility for public assistance. The goal of these trusts is to provide individuals with disabilities an option for supplementing their daily living expenses when the government benefits received are insufficient and to allow family and friends of individuals with disabilities to retain assets for accommodation of the individual’s comfort and well-being.

Special needs trusts are discretionary, spendthrift trusts. This means that the trustees of these trusts have complete control over distributions made to the beneficiaries to prevent depletion of trust funds, which could be caused either by overspending on the beneficiary’s behalf or beneficiary’s creditors reaching the trust monies. The trustee has the additional responsibility of ensuring that the amount of funds distributed to the disabled beneficiary does not render him or her ineligible for government benefits.

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Colorado Legislature Protects Existing Recreational Water Rights

On May 25, 2017, the Colorado legislature passed House Bill 17-1990 addressing the 2015 Colorado Supreme Court decision of St. Jude’s Co. v. Roaring Fork Club LLC denying a private club’s ability to obtain an instream water right. Colorado, as a prior appropriation state, requires its water users to demonstrate that the water will be (1) diverted and (2) put to a beneficial use, in order to claim a water right. Beneficial use is defined by statute in C.R.S. §37-92-103(4), which by its terms does not allow private parties to appropriate instream flow rights.

In St. Jude’s Co., the applicant, Roaring Fork Club, was granted a new direct-flow appropriative right for aesthetic, recreation, and piscatorial uses. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Colorado held that a private club could not obtain a direct-flow water right for aesthetic, recreation, and piscatorial use because such uses are not beneficial uses of water under Colorado law. 351 P.3d 442, 445 ("the Club failed to demonstrate an intent to apply the amount of water for which it sought a decree to any beneficial use").

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