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February wrap-up: conservatorship news and ERISA suits

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Retirement benefits and community property

Valentine’s day has come and gone and it’s time for the end-of-the-month wrap up! This month we have stories about environmentally friendly estate plans, ERISA law suits and even a new February holiday (and this one isn’t limited to couples).

Estate Planning

Forbes wrote an article this month on uncomfortable issues you might find yourself facing when preparing your estate plans. The article tackles issues from family relations like disinheriting the despised son-in-law, spouse or the child who marries outside the faith, to the controversial disposal of your remains.

Valentine’s Day is for couples, but estate planning is not. In fact, estate planning could be especially important for individuals with no spouse, children or close family members because powers of attorney allow you to designate who should make important healthcare or financial decisions for you should you become incapacitated.

If you hope your estate plan will help the environment you may consider donating to a charity with conservationist causes. Or, if you have the land for it, an article out of the ACTEC law journal suggests setting up a conservation easement. Conservation easements can be a valuable strategy for ensuring that land remains protected.

Guardianships and Conservatorships

A disability rights group is suing New York over their guardianship system, alleging that it violates the right to due process and equal protection for people with intellectual disabilities. Predatory guardianships and conservatorships are not a new topic in the news. Britney Spears recently published a whole book about her conservatorship experience and Arizona recently changed it’s laws around guardianship trials. A few years ago, Netflix was even streaming a movie about predatory guardianships, although it didn’t really mirror the reality of what guardianships look like.

On the other hand, the family of former Beach Boy, Brian Wilson is seeking a conservatorship for the singer following his diagnosis with dementia. The family says he lacks capacity to make decisions for himself. Wilson did prepare power of attorney and advanced directives, they name only his wife as his agent with no successor. This follows Jay Leno filing for a conservatorship over his wife under similar circumstances just last month. For many with incapacitated loved ones who never got around to (or who never had capacity to) create powers of attorney, a guardianship or conservatorship may be the best option.

Elder Law Suits

We already told you about the disability rights group suing New York over their guardianship system, but that isn’t the only elder law lawsuit happening. In Houston two people in Houston have been accused of posing as funeral home directors to steal life insurance money. The two men allegedly forged licenses and stole thousands of dollars for funerals that would never happen.

In retirement news, the fiduciaries of the Honeywell 401(k) plan have been hit with a fiduciary breach suit under ERISA. Members claim that among other things, these fiduciaries engaged in self dealing. The claims are similar to those filed against the fiduciaries of Clorox, Qualcomm and HP in the last year.

Other stuff:

One Response

  1. Do you handle probate/trust litigation? Trustee has transferred title to trust real property into her own name without authorization. First proceeds from sale of house are to fulfill a $40,000 pecuniary bequest to trust beneficiaries. Beneficiaries have asked me to look for a trust litigation attorney. (I am a retired attorney and no longer handle such matters.) – Stewart Fleisher 303-594-9170

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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.