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May Review: Aging, Taxes, and Betty White

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May review

It’s almost June, so it’s time to survey elder law news and commentary and share interesting developments. For the May review, we have news about Arizona’s elders, taxes, and Betty White’s estate sale:

Challenges of Aging

Arizona’s Auditor General issued a scathing report that suggests the Department of Health Services is doing little to protect Arizona seniors. In 2019, auditors made five recommendations, and DHS has implemented none. Among findings, “the agency inappropriately changed virtually all of its open high-priority complaints to lower priorities” That extended the time to respond from 10 days to a year. And then, cases were closed with no inquiry at all.

May is “Older Americans Month,” and the theme this year: Aging in Place. According to AARP, 77% of adults 50 and older want to remain in their homes for the long-term, a number that has been consistent for more than a decade. Does that include you or someone you care about? Here are some key questions to address about the living space.

Dementia research shows that a diagnosis is costly if it follows a crisis. Early diagnosis helps. As a result, a researcher concludes, “More attention to and support for patients with cognitive decline earlier on may have health benefits and spending implications.”

Say you get a dementia diagnosis – what then? Some practical advice: understand it, ask questions, seek support.

Meanwhile, studies show blueberries, cranberries, and lifestyle choices (three or maybe seven) may help avoid dementia.

And that new Alzheimer’s drug everyone was excited about? Barely works.

May’s Tax Developments

It may be only natural that, following tax season, our May review found fretting over taxes and the economy, but there are always planning opportunities.

First, the planning opportunity. If your estate might be subject to estate tax, the stock market’s dip into bear territory can have an upside. It’s good to gift assets when they’re down. Here’s why.

As for the fretting, proposed tax regulations target planning techniques that may be considered abusive. Some gifting techniques might not work, so if you engaged in sophisticated estate-tax avoidance strategies, take a look and consult with your advisers.

A couple of creative thinkers have what they say is a better way to tax the rich at death than Biden’s plan. For the very rich (over $50 million), tax unrealized gains at death at ordinary income rates, but keep lower rates for lifetime gifts.

Though taxing the rich is popular among voters, Congress is not likely to act. Why? According to this piece: “Wealthy people are both economically more conservative than regular Americans and hold more sway in the political system.”

Can you believe seventeen states still levy an estate and/or inheritance tax? (Arizona has neither.) Many of them are making adjustments. Here’s where not to die in 2022 if you are trying to avoid tax.

Estate tax is interesting to think about and plan to avoid, but what actually needs to be done? Here are some specifics about dealing with estate tax when a spouse has died.

Here’s a tax dispute resolved after more than two decades: An art collector’s estate has settled with the IRS and agreed to pay more than $17 million (down from $200 million the IRS once wanted).

Review of News You Can Use

You should know . . .  CDs don’t escape being counted for estate tax purposes. But they can avoid probate.

You might want to understand . . . the differences between gifting during life vs. at death . . .  what trusts do (and don’t do) . . .  and what TOD means.

Or consider planning tips for creative people, business owners, and the easily distracted.

And the benefits of using disclaimers to add flexibility to estate plans, or to just get rid of an asset you’re entitled to inherit but don’t want.

May’s Law & Order News

Federal prosecutors in Vermont accuse 28-year-old Nathan Carman of luring his mother on a fishing trip, killing her and sinking their boat to inherit his family’s estate. As part of his plan, prosecutors say, he shot and killed his grandfather, too.  He says he’s not guilty.

A jury found a former MIT professor guilty of forgery and other charges. John Donovan, 80, tried to swindle millions of dollars from his dead son’s estate. His son, also named John, died of cancer at age 43 in 2015 and didn’t want his dad to have anything to do with his estate. John Sr. forged will codicils, deeds, land transfers, mortgages and releases of judgments against him. If successful, he would have gained $5 million worth of land.

In a not unexpected development, Gabby Petito’s mother has filed a wrongful death suit against the estate of Brian Laundrie. She seeks damages of at least $30,000.00.

Estates of the Rich & Famous

Administrators of Marilyn Monroe’s estate know all publicity is good publicity. They’re giving a big thumbs up to Kim Kardashian wearing Monroe’s famous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress to the Met gala. Though critics were “furious.

This could be interesting: The estate Frida Kahlo has entered into a deal for a TV series based on the iconic artist’s life. Says her grandniece: “The series seeks to portray Frida as she has never been seen before. The goal is to present a unique perspective based on what her family knows about her and show how she really lived her life.”

There’s a major auction of actress Betty White’s estate coming up in September. The three-day event will feature more than 1,500 lots. It will include awards, scripts, wardrobe, memorabilia from her TV shows and films, plus furnishings, art, jewelry, and personal items from her California residences.

And last but not least for May’s review: Here are two more people who are not super-famous but should be:  Harriet and J. Locke Macomber left $45 million to eight Des Moines charities. Each describes the impact of the “money from heaven.”

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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.