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A 'verbal lease'

Verbal leases of one year or less are legally binding in Colorado, but they are rarely a good idea. Without a written contract, any disputes that occur will be one person’s word against the other. Busey claims the former homeowner’s granddaughter gave her the verbal go-ahead to live in the home rent-free.

But police and court records obtained by 9NEWS describe the granddaughter as a “vulnerable adult” who lives in a facility for people with developmental disabilities, and she may not have the mental capacity to make reasonable decisions.

If there’s a dispute about a verbal lease in Colorado, success typically comes down to the credibility of the parties involved, according to 9NEWS legal expert Whitney Traylor.

In this case, Busey’s past brushes with the law, which include at least two felony convictions for identity theft — plus the fact that neighbors have called the cops at least 19 times with complaints — do not work in her favor.

Busey says “there has been no criminal activity” at the house and is disputing the legal action against her. When asked directly by 9NEWS if she is “taking advantage” of the former owner’s granddaughter, Busey replied: “Absolutely not. I offered to buy the house.”

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Dying without a will

The Busey case has “so much to unravel,” Traylor says. “The primary issue is that the decedent who owned the property died without a will.”

If you die without a will in Colorado, your assets are distributed to your closest relatives under the state’s intestate succession laws. In that case, the owner’s granddaughter may be the rightful heir to the property.

Only assets that pass through probate — including property titled solely in the name of the person who died — are affected by intestate succession laws. Assets that don’t pass through probate — which includes anything with beneficiaries listed, such as life insurance, retirement accounts and certain bank accounts — will pass onto any surviving co-owners or named beneficiaries regardless of the existence of a will.

9NEWS reviewed probate court records of the contested home, which show that the court system in Jefferson County appointed a special administrator to sort out who should inherit the property. The local news station also reports the administrator was asked to “address the issues that have arisen” after the grandfather’s death, which may involve “illegal activity, squatters living at the property and probably drug use.”

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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.

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