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Arizona Legislature Considers Measures Affecting Seniors

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The Arizona legislature has just begun its 1998 session, and will be considering a number of measures of interest to seniors and their advisors and advocates. Not all the bills will be adopted, and some may be changed beyond recognition. The proposals still reflect the thinking and direction of at least some of the legislators. A few of the more important proposals include:

Financial Exploitation

Existing laws make it a crime to convert a “vulnerable” adult’s funds or property to one’s own use. The proposed changes of Senate Bill 1050 would strengthen that law in a number of ways.

One of the most frequent techniques used by exploiters is to establish a relationship of trust and confidence with a vulnerable senior, and then to abuse that trust by transferring assets (often using a durable power of attorney) from the senior’s estate. While that sounds like theft, the existing law did not clearly define theft to include such behavior. The new proposal clears up any confusion, making it a crime to take control of a vulnerable adult’s property by misuse of such a relationship of confidence. In a separate section, the new law creates a separate category of theft to include abuse of durable powers of attorney.

The proposed new law also would clearly establish the duty of an agent under a durable power of attorney. It would require all acts by the agent to be in the best interests of the principal, and would provide new legal arguments for advocates seeking to recover from exploiters who use powers of attorney.

A decade ago, Arizona adopted a sweeping law intended to crack down on abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable adults. As part of that law, the State Attorney General’s Office was required to establish and maintain a list of all persons who had been accused of abuse, neglect or exploitation, whether in criminal court or in civil lawsuits. That registry has been spottily maintained, and has not proved valuable to the advocacy community. The new law would clarify the registry, and provide a mechanism for persons wrongfully accused to argue their position in writing.

Gifts to Minors

The Uniform Transfers to Minors Act provides a simple mechanism for gifts to children. Under the law, a gift can be titled so that it will belong to the minor, but may be managed by someone else. In this way, the gift-giver can effectively create a simple trust without the expense of creating a complex legal document.

One of the attractive elements of the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act has been that the law permits gifts to be held until the recipient reaches the age of 21. Parents and grandparents (the usual donors under the Uniform Transfers law) are uncomfortable with the notion of turning substantial sums over to a child on his or her eighteenth birthday.

Proposed Senate Bill 1159 would remove that three-year comfort zone. Under the new law, Uniform Transfers to Minors Act accounts would have to be distributed to the child on his or her eighteenth birthday.

Pain Management

Many seniors are frightened by the prospect of a protracted and painful death. The possibility exists that pain medication could be withheld from a terminally ill patient because of a misguided concern about addiction. Perhaps more disturbing is the notion that pain medication should be reduced or withheld to prevent an “untimely” death as a result of the suppression of breathing and heart function related to the use of some powerful painkillers.

House Bill 2001 would make it clear that terminally ill patients should be adequately treated for pain. Medical providers would be given clear authority to treat pain, despite the possibility of death or addiction from such treatment. The proposed law would not sanction mercy-killing, but would approve what is already common practice.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.