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Mother Sues Son Over Transfer of Home and Bank Accounts

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MARCH 15, 2004 VOLUME 11, NUMBER 37

Louise Friar worried about what would happen to her modest estate if she ever needed to go into a nursing home. She owned her home, and she had two certificates of deposit that represented her life savings. Whether she got the idea from friends, professional advisors, her own analysis, or conversations with her two sons, she though she had come up with a surefire way to protect her assets from long-term care costs.

First Ms. Friar went to her bank, where she gave instructions that each of her two CDs was to be transferred into the name of one of her sons—but that the income payments should continue to be paid into her checking account. Then she visited her attorney and directed him to prepare a deed transferring the house to her sons, reserving a life estate.

By taking these two steps, Ms. Friar was assured that she would continue to have the use of her major assets for her life, but that her sons would automatically receive them on her death. After a while, however, she had second thoughts about the wisdom of her actions. She had, after all, given up control over all her assets. She had not just made them payable to her sons on her death, but had actually given them the CDs and an interest in her home.

Ms. Friar asked her sons to return her assets. After some discussion one son, Darrell, agreed and transferred property back to Ms. Friar. Her other son, J.D., refused to cooperate. So Ms. Friar sued J.D., alleging that he had coerced her into making the transfers, and that he had defrauded her.

A Georgia judge agreed with Ms. Friar and ordered J.D. to return her property even before a full hearing on her allegations. J.D. appealed, and the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed that order.

The appellate court did not decide that Ms. Friar could not get her property back, but it did decide that the issue was not as clear as the lower court had thought. The case was sent back to the trial court for a full hearing to determine whether J.D. Friar really had coerced or defrauded his mother. Friar v. Friar, Feb. 18, 2004.

Ms. Friar’s story is not unusual. Seniors frequently transfer assets to their children in order to “protect” them from nursing home costs. Sometimes those transfers actually result in protection, but sometimes they simply complicate the family situation. When transfers are made, whether they are well-advised or not, they are usually irrevocable. Ms. Friar will recover her assets only if she can show fraud or coercion by her son—and she will have paid significant legal expenses. Of course, she also will have had to sue her own son in order to undo the transfers.

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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.