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Insurance Saleswoman Unduly Influences Wisconsin Man

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Vanessa Henningfeld first met 71-year-old George Milas when she visited his Wisconsin home to sell him a long-term care insurance policy. The two of them quickly became friends.

Mr. Milas had a number of problems to deal with. He had a heavy Lithuanian accent that made it hard for people to understand him. He was also beginning to experience problems with his memory, and he needed help managing his finances. His second wife was divorcing him, and he had legal proceedings to deal with.

Ms. Henningfeld, 35, promptly began assisting Mr. Milas to deal with all of those problems. About four months after they first met, she called his lawyer, made an appointment and accompanied Mr. Milas to the lawyer’s office to make a new will and power of attorney. The will, executed in 1988, disinherited his two adult children (who had been named in his earlier will) and left everything to Ms. Henningfeld. He also signed a power of attorney giving her control over all his finances.

Over the next year, Ms. Henningfeld took charge of Mr. Milas’ affairs. She managed his divorce proceedings, attended all meetings with his lawyer, tried to keep the lawyers on both sides out of the settlement discussions and generally interfered with the court process. She even filed a complaint against Mr. Milas’ lawyer with the Board of Attorneys’ Professional Responsibility.

A year after he made the will leaving his estate to Ms. Henningfeld, Mr. Milas visited his lawyer’s office without her present. He took the 1988 will, drew a line through it and wrote at the bottom that he revoked it. Ms. Henningfeld remained in his life, however.

Five years later, Mr. Milas suffered a stroke. Shortly after that, he signed another will leaving his entire estate to Ms. Henningfeld. He died three years after signing the new will.

Ms. Henningfeld filed the last will for probate with the Wisconsin courts. It was found to be invalid because of Mr. Milas’ susceptibility to undue influence and Ms. Henningeld’s actions taking advantage of that susceptibility. Ms. Henningfeld then offered the 1988 will for probate, arguing that Mr. Milas was not unduly influenced when it was executed, and that his revocation of that will was invalid.

The court refused to admit the earlier will, as well, but Ms. Henningfeld appealed. The Court of Appeals heard Ms. Henningfeld’s appeal and ordered the trial judge to reconsider; at the second trial, the 1988 will was upheld and Ms. Henningfeld once again was to receive Mr. Milas’ property. This time his daughters appealed.

On the second trip to the Court of Appeals, the result was reversed again. The Court ruled that there was at least slight evidence of Mr. Milas’ susceptibility to undue influence; since there was clear and convincing evidence of Ms. Henningfeld’s disposition and opportunity to unduly influence Mr. Milas, and since she obtained her desired result, his susceptibility to undue influence could be inferred from the slight evidence presented. Estate of Milas, August 19, 1999.

Although Wisconsin law imposes a four-part test for undue influence, Arizona’s approach is to list seven elements which might suggest the existence of undue influence. Both states require evidence of undue influence to be shown clearly and convincingly; because such influence is usually exerted in secret, both recognize that the evidence will often be shown by inference, rather than direct evidence.

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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.