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November Roundup: Death, Divorce, and Holiday Help

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November roundup

It may seem too early for the November roundup of elder law news items. But December is less than a week away, so it’s time. This month, in our survey of the elder law landscape, we stumbled upon a real-life circumstance that illustrates the conundrum that divorce sometimes creates for divorcing couples. Plus: tax updates, IRA tips, and holiday help.

Updated Ocasek Estate Plan Could Unravel

Divorcing couples often put off updating their estate plan until the process is final. The case of Ric Ocasek illustrates why that’s not a good idea. And why updating the plan might not always work. Ocasek and his wife, model Paulina Porizkova, married 30 years, were seeking a divorce when the Cars singer died a few weeks after surgery. Just prior to the procedure, Ocasek did what most estate planning attorneys would recommend. He executed a Will that expressed his wish to disinherit his soon-to-be former spouse. It looks like Porizkova is going to fight for a larger share. The new Will was still a good idea. If it didn’t exist, Porizkova would inherit under their existing plan. The divorce in progress wouldn’t matter. Most married people leave everything to their spouse, so she may have gotten everything.

Ocasek died in New York, and under New York law, to completely disinherit his spouse, he had to claim she abandoned him. But the couple still lived under the same roof and she discovered his body when she was bringing him coffee that morning. Sources say she has a good chance of defeating that assertion. If she manages to invalidate the entire Will, she would inherit under the prior plan (likely everything). If she wins on abandonment, she could take home as much as $1.7 million – one third of Ocasek’s probate estate.

Ocasek’s new plan would have fared better in Arizona. In New York, spouses can “elect” to take a third of the probate estate as an “elective share.” Not so in Arizona. Here, spouses receive a “statutory share,” specific amounts that add up to no more than $37,000. Note also, though, that if Ocasek and Porizkova had lived in Arizona, much of his $5.1 million probate estate probably would have been Porizkova’s as community property.

Interested in disinheriting someone? Here are some general tips and considerations.

In other November roundup items:

Estate, Gift Limits Adjusted for Inflation

The IRS released new numbers for estate and gift tax limits. For 2020, it’s $11.58 million for lifetime transfers, $15,000 per person excluded annually. The IRS also finalized the regulations that confirm gifts made during this temporary window of high exclusion will not be clawed back later.

AARP Study Calculates Value of Caregiving

We all know family members put a lot of heart, soul, time, and money into caring for loved ones. A new AARP report puts a number to it: 34 billion hours of unpaid care, with an economic value of $470 billion.

IRAs: Still Complicated

IRAs, we’ve noted many times, have complicated rules, especially when inherited. Here are seven of the rules you should know, and an illustration of why inheriting an IRA is generally better than inheriting a 401(k).

If a Holiday Visit Becomes Alarming

If you are visiting an aging loved one over the holidays, and you notice he or she might need some extra help, here’s some general guidance and more specific to-dos dealing with dementia. For those already caring for someone with dementia, a new website aims to guide households to safety.

That’s the November roundup. If you see an item of interest, please let us know. Happy Thanksgiving!


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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.