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Children’s Suit Against Lawyer Over Trust Drafting Dismissed

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Massachusetts resident Thomas Rogers, Sr., was a successful businessman and retired director of a local bank. When his first wife died after a forty-year marriage and four children, he met and married Thelma W. Wigglesworth. The second Mrs. Rogers was 66 and Mr. Rogers was 74 when they married in 1977, and Mrs. Rogers had three grown children of her own.

Mr. and Mrs. Rogers signed a prenuptial agreement which provided that each would maintain separate finances, and that they would acquire no interest in one another’s property. The agreement did not prevent either from leaving property to the other, though it did indicate that there was no requirement that either one should do so.

For the next thirteen years Mr. Rogers insisted to his children that he would not be leaving any significant part of his estate to his second wife, and that they would receive it upon his death. He pointed out that he and his new wife continued to maintain separate finances.

Despite both what he told his children and the terms of his prenuptial agreement, Mr. Rogers was actually making provisions for much of his property to go to his wife. In 1979, for example, he signed a new will leaving Mrs. Rogers a life estate in his home plus an annuity of $12,000 per year.

The next year Mr. Rogers made contact with Theodore C. Regnante, an attorney in Wakefield, Mass. Mr. Regnante ultimately prepared a living trust for Mr. Rogers, and also prepared an amendment to that trust four years later. Under the terms of the trust prepared by Mr. Regnante, Mr. Rogers’ estate would be divided into two separate trusts—one for the benefit of Mrs. Rogers and the other for the benefit of Mr. Rogers’ four children.

When Mr. Rogers died in 1991 the language of the trust assigned $854,000 of his $1.37 million estate to Mrs. Rogers and then, upon her death three years later, to her three children. Mr. Rogers’ children sued Mr. Regnante, accusing him of legal malpractice in failing to carry out their father’s wishes.

Mr. Regnante defended the lawsuit on two grounds. First, he argued, the children had no right to sue him because he had represented their father and not them. Even if they could maintain the action, he insisted, the ultimate estate division was consistent with Mr. Rogers’ actual wishes, and he had no duty to follow the prenuptial agreement or Mr. Rogers’ statements to his children.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court agreed with the lawyer on the second argument. Nothing in the prenuptial agreement precluded Mr. Rogers from leaving more of his estate to his wife, and he was free to do so if he wished. The lawsuit against Mr. Regnante was dismissed. Rogers v. Regnante, October 2, 2000.

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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.