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Estate of Arnold.

2024 COA 44. No. 23CA1381. Colorado Probate Code—Nonprobate Transfer on Death—Expectancy Interest in Payable on Death Account.

April 25, 2024

Michael Arnold was in a romantic relationship with English. He opened a single-party payable on death (POD) account at First Colorado National Bank and designated English as the beneficiary of the account. When their relationship ended six years later, Michael and English entered into a settlement agreement under which he paid English $25,000 in “complete settlement” of any claims she might have against him, including claims recited in the agreement that Michael had allegedly breached an oral implied agreement giving English a right of support and/or property interest (the settlement agreement). But Michael had never changed the POD designation on the bank account, which totaled more than $165,000, when he died more than 10 years after entering into the settlement agreement. In the informal estate proceeding, English contended that she owns the POD account funds as a matter of law. Lynn Arnold, Michael’s sister and the personal representative of his estate, and the primary beneficiary under his will, contended that the account funds belong to the estate because English waived her interest through the settlement agreement. The district court ruled that the bank account funds belong to the estate, reasoning that the settlement agreement’s broad language effectuated a waiver of English’s right to assert a claim against the estate based on the POD designation.

On appeal, English argued that she didn’t waive her rights as the POD beneficiary of the bank account by entering into the settlement agreement because it wasn’t specific enough to effectuate a waiver of any interest in the POD account. Under the Colorado Probate Code, a POD beneficiary becomes the owner of those assets by operation of law immediately upon the owner’s death, so such assets transfer directly to the POD beneficiary upon the owner’s death without becoming an asset of the probate estate. And a settlement agreement doesn’t waive an expectancy interest in a POD account unless the agreement expressly renunciates that interest or otherwise clearly manifests an intent to extinguish it. Here, English’s interest in the POD account doesn’t constitute a “claim” against Michael or his successors or assigns within the meaning of the settlement agreement; rather, as the POD beneficiary, English merely had an expectancy interest. And although the settlement agreement has broad release language, it doesn’t mention the POD account or any survivorship interests or expectancies. Accordingly, the settlement agreement isn’t specific enough to effectuate a waiver of English’s expectancy interest in the POD account.

The order was reversed and the case was remanded with instructions to enter an order holding that English is entitled to the funds from the POD account.


Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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