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May Roundup: Anticipating the Unknown

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May roundup

We’re kicking off the new month with a look back at the last one; here’s the May roundup of elder law items:

Will Corona Kill the Ultra-High Estate Tax Exemption?

We aim to keep this a Coronavirus-free zone, but we can’t help but wonder whether current events will have an effect on estate and gift tax laws. Both the levels of government spending and the increasingly obvious economic inequities suggest change may lie ahead. We’re not alone. This opinion piece from MarketWatch summed up it up well: “There’s no guarantee that today’s ultra-favorable federal gift and estate tax regime will be allowed to survive past this year. In fact, there’s no guarantee that the regime for this year (2020) won’t be retroactively changed for the worse after the November election. That probably won’t happen, but don’t bet your life on it.” Before getting to that statement, the piece reviews how estate and gift tax laws have changed in the recent past. And after that statement, it discusses some strategies for taking advantage of the current landscape. If you are not ready to act now, consider exploring your options and preparing to before it’s too late.

Speaking of exploring options, the current economic climate (low interest rates, depressed assets) provides an historic opportunity to pass wealth onto younger generations.

Another Corona-related issue: What do you do if you received a stimulus check for a dead person? The answer.

Estate Planning Roundup

  • One really good idea surfaced thanks to the virus crisis: Assemble an estate planning “to go” package that’s ready for any emergency.
  • You may have heard that the “stretch IRA” is gone. That’s mostly true, but not entirely. If a person inherits a traditional IRA now, there are new rules. One option: if you don’t want your beneficiaries to have to make those choices, convert to a Roth. Is the time right for you? Did you know that the suspension of RMDs helps make this a good time?
  • People who have kids almost always leave assets to them in equal shares, but there are times when they seriously consider whether that’s really fair. For anyone struggling with the issue, here are some suggestions. One of them: talk to your kids about it.

Slayer Can Inherit, Save Tax

One of the most interesting elder law stories this month came out of the U.K. A court found that Sally Challen, a woman who beat her husband to death with a hammer after decades of abuse, could inherit from his estate. She was jailed for life and removed as an heir by laws that prevent criminals from benefiting from their crimes. Most U.S. states, including Arizona, have similar “slayer statutes.” (Arizona disinherits felonious, intentional killers.)  In Sally’s case, evidence of mental illness reduced her charges and resulted in her release. It that’s not interesting enough, the inheritance fight wasn’t to sustain her livelihood; she’s not taking it. It’s to save inheritance tax for her two sons.

That’s it for the May roundup. Keep your distance, but don’t be a stranger.

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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.