Close this search box.

Montana Court Orders Return of Kansas Woman’s Accounts

Print Article

APRIL 26, 1999 VOLUME 6, NUMBER 43

Clara Mowrer lived in her Kansas home until, three months short of her 101st birthday, she fell and broke her hip. After two months of hospitalization, she was ready to be released. Her niece, Peggy Eddie, and Ms. Eddie’s husband Maurice arrived from Montana to help take care of her.

Within a few days of Ms. Eddie’s arrival in Kansas, Ms. Mowrer had signed a durable power of attorney giving Ms. Eddie power to handle all her financial affairs. On the same day that the power of attorney was signed, several of Ms. Mowrer’s bank accounts were transferred into the Eddies’ names.

After staying in Kansas with Ms. Mowrer for about a month, the Eddies decided to take her back to their home in Kalispell, Montana. In addition to Ms. Mowrer, the Eddies moved a substantial amount of money. In fact, within four months of Ms. Mowrer’s arrival in Montana the Eddies had used their power of attorney to transfer over $800,000 into their own names. They also arranged for her to visit their own attorney, and a will was executed leaving all her estate to Mr. and Mrs. Eddie.

Ms. Mowrer continued to live with the Eddies for a little over a year, and then was admitted to a nursing home in Montana. A few months later, Ms. Mowrer hired a local attorney, who immediately prepared a revocation of her power of attorney and demanded that the Eddies account for all the property they had transferred. The Eddies responded by filing a petition for appointment as Ms. Mowrer’s guardian and conservator.

At trial, the Eddies argued that Ms. Mowrer had made gifts to them of substantially all her assets, and that she was now incapacitated. Ms. Mowrer, through her attorney, argued that she was able to make her own decisions and handle her own affairs, and that the Eddies had taken advantage of her physical illness when they took her money.

After seven days of trial, the Montana court found that Ms. Mowrer was competent, did not need a guardian or conservator, and had not made gifts to the Eddies. Finding that the transfers were the result of undue influence exercised by the Eddies, the judge ordered them to repay $807,582.44 to Ms. Mowrer and froze some real property in the Eddies’ names. The Eddies appealed to the Montana Supreme Court.

Although most of the transfers occurred in Kansas, the Justices decided that Montana law could be used to determine whether the Eddies had acted properly. This was true, said the court, because the Eddies’ actions amounted to undue influence under both states’ laws. The Eddies had also argued that the lawyer representing Ms. Mowrer had a conflict of interest; given Ms. Mowrer’s age (104) and the minimal nature of the conflict, the court declined to order a retrial on that basis.

On the merits of Ms. Mowrer’s claim, the Montana Supreme Court agreed with the trial judge. The evidence of undue influence was substantial: Ms. Mowrer was physically weak when the Eddies moved into her home to care for her; they moved her far away from friends and family, and kept her isolated (even changing their telephone number); visitors were discouraged, and always monitored by the Eddies. Matter of Mower [sic], April 9, 1999.

Arizona law is very similar to Montana in cases of exploitation of the elderly. In similar facts, Arizona courts should be expected to rule the same way as the Montana courts.

Stay up to date

Subscribe to our Newsletter to get our takes on some of the situations families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities find themselves in. These posts help guide you in the decision making process and point out helpful tips and nuances to take advantage of. Enter your email below to have our entries sent directly to your inbox!

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.