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Guardian Ad Litem Appointed For Incapacitated Litigant

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MAY 13, 2002 VOLUME 9, NUMBER 46

Ralph Blakely, Jr., signed himself in to a mental health treatment facility for the first time in 1972. Despite treatment he received from time to time over the next quarter century, he continued to suffer from delusions, hallucinations and impaired memory.

Mr. Blakely married in 1973. He and his wife Yolanda owned various businesses over the years, including a dairy farm, an orchard, and other properties. He apparently continued to live a tumultuous life; by 1995 the couple had been involved in over 60 lawsuits. Partly to protect their assets from possible creditors the Blakelys created a trust to hold title to most of their property.

In 1995 Mr. Blakely’s legal troubles began to escalate. First his wife filed for a dissolution of their marriage. A year later the trustee of the trust which the couple had created asked the court to compel Mrs. Blakely to account for her use of trust assets; she argued that Mr. Blakely, his father and son were liable for any shortages.

Mr. Blakely elected to represent himself in the trust and dissolution actions. About three weeks before the trust trial, however, he was arrested for kidnapping his wife and son, and he went to jail pending a trial on those charges.

The attorneys appointed to represent Mr. Blakely in his criminal trial asked the court in the trust and dissolution actions to appoint a guardian ad litem (usually referred to as a “GAL”) in those proceedings. The GAL would be able, they argued, to determine what would be in Mr. Blakely’s best interests, and to manage the litigation without exposing him to further criminal problems. Although the court initially denied the request a local attorney was ultimately appointed to serve as guardian ad litem.

The trust case was the first of Mr. Blakely’s three legal problems to be resolved. His GAL helped negotiate a resolution of the claims and counterclaims, and the court approved the settlement.

Next Mr. Blakely faced the criminal charges arising from his having kidnapped his wife and son. A jury heard that matter and decided that his mental condition was not so serious as to prevent him from participating in own trial. Armed with that finding Mr. Blakely asked that his GAL be dismissed in the trust and dissolution matters so that he could once again represent himself. Those requests were denied and he appealed.

The Washington Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s determination that Mr. Blakely needed a GAL to make decisions in his best interests. Court rules allow for appointment of a GAL when a litigant is unable to understand the significance of legal proceedings. A full hearing on the request was not required since he did not object until after the appointment. Marriage of Blakely and Blakely, April 25, 2002.

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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.