Close this search box.

Promise Made To Companion Enforceable Against Estate

Print Article


Arthur Roccamonte was married, the father of two children and the owner of a trucking business in New Jersey when he met Mary Sopko. Ms. Sopko was also married, and had one daughter. Mr. Roccamonte, attracted to Ms. Sopko, pursued her and the couple embarked on an affair that lasted until his death forty years later. When he died Ms. Sopko claimed that he had promised to support her for the rest of her life, and that his estate should make good on that promise.

The affair between Mr. Roccamonte and Ms. Sopko began sometime in the mid-1950s, and the couple lived together off and on for another decade. Sometime in the mid-1960s Ms. Sopko moved to California to get away from Mr. Roccamonte because of his refusal to leave his wife and marry her. He called her while she was in California and promised that if she would return he would divorce his wife and provide for Ms. Sopko financially for the rest of her life.

Ms. Sopko agreed, returned to New Jersey, divorced her husband and moved back into an apartment with Mr. Roccamonte. Although the couple lived together as if married, Mr. Roccamonte never divorced and in fact continued to support his wife financially.

When the apartment they lived in converted into a cooperative complex Mr. Roccamonte purchased their unit and placed it in Ms. Sopko’s name. He supported her and her daughter, and sent the daughter through college. He purchased an $18,000 life insurance policy naming Ms. Sopko as beneficiary, and he put her name on a small bank account. But when Mr. Roccamonte died in 1995 he had not made a will or any other arrangement, and the bulk of his estate passed automatically to his wife.

Ms. Sopko filed a claim against his estate, charging that he had made an enforceable promise to support her for her lifetime. She noted that even the monthly maintenance payments on the cooperative apartment were $950, and that she could not live in her own home without support. The trial court, however, ruled that she had not shown an enforceable contract and dismissed her claim.

The New Jersey Supreme Court disagreed and directed that the case be remanded for a calculation of the amount due Ms. Sopko on her claim. Because Mr. Roccamonte had made the promise and Ms. Sopko had acted in reliance on it the contract was enforceable even though not written. Interestingly, the judges ordered that the amount be calculated in family (divorce) court rather than probate court. Estate of Roccamonte, October 23, 2002.

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.