By Hadar L. Avraham* and Raphael J. Avraham**
* J.D., University of
Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, 2008. ** J.D. Candidate, University of
Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, 2013; M.B.A. Candidate, University of
Arizona Eller College of Management, 2013.
from In re Estate of Riley: Protecting
Beneficiaries' Rights in a Probate Estate, 54 Ariz. L. Rev. 567 (Summer,
In 2006, Joseph Riley ("Joseph") and Mary Benge ("Mary")
resigned as co-personal representatives of Mary Riley's estate after their
siblings, also beneficiaries of the estate, filed a petition for their removal. 1 Joseph
and Mary prepared an accounting of the estate for the court that showed that
Joseph stole more than $ 200,000 from the estate. 2 Ultimately
Joseph pleaded guilty to theft and was ordered to spend 52 consecutive weekends
in jail. 3
Nine of the estate's thirteen beneficiaries also filed a civil suit. The
litigation implicated Arizona Revised Statutes section 14-3952, and prompted
the Arizona Court of Appeals to clarify the statute's requirements. The Arizona
State Legislature adopted section 14-3952 in 1974, which defines the procedure
for securing court approval of a compromise. This Case Note first analyzes the
court of appeals' decision In re Estate of Riley, which addressed for the first
time whether section 14-3952 requires that a compromise agreement that affects
the distribution of an estate be executed by all estate beneficiaries and
interested persons. 4 Looking to the plain meaning of the
statute, the court held that in order to protect the rights of beneficiaries
and interested persons in the estate's distribution, all beneficiaries and
interested persons must execute an agreement. 5 This Case
Note explores the implications of the Riley decision - including increasing
costs, opportunities for abuse, and contraventions of the law's intent - and
suggests legislative action that may accommodate the court's interest in
protecting beneficiaries' rights in ...
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