Former Arizona legislator, probate reformer remembered as ‘relentless advocate’

It is with sadness that we report the passing of former Arizona lawmaker Laura Knaperek.

After serving in the Arizona House of Representatives from 1996 to 2006, Knaperek became a lobbyist whose activities included probate reform.

In 2011, she worked on behalf of Brad Lund, the grandson of Walt Disney, and his parents to change state law in order to halt what Knaperek called “rampant financial exploitation and abuse” of vulnerable adults.

“They’re taking all their money and they’re left with nothing in their estates and the state then has to take care of these folks,” she told KNXV-TV. “The reality is that the probate court is not doing its job.”

Her effort centered on The Probate Victims Bill of Rights, a bill designed to use the power of the courts and the incentives of free-market reform to stop abusive behavior in the system.

Political realities show that activism efforts often fail to meet their highest goals and Arizona’s 2011 probate reform was no exception. That said, probate abuse targets credited the bill as forcing new court oversight.

Knaperek termed the bill’s failure “to require clear and convincing evidence before someone can be appointed conservator to manage an incapacitated adult’s finances” as “the biggest loss.”

“A lot of the victims were made victims because of that,” she said in an interview with The Arizona Republic adding that judges use no set standard in the appointment of conservators.

Kyle Moyer, a family friend speaking on behalf of the Knaperek family, posted this tribute on Facebook:

I was very saddened to learn of Laura Knaperek passing this morning by her family. As her daughter Sarah said to me, “my mom got her wings”. My sincerest love and deepest prayers go out to them at this difficult time. They have asked me to post a few words of my own while they are coping with their immediate family needs.

Laura was one of the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate friends I have ever known. She was a relentless advocate for the most vulnerable in our society alway putting the needs of others before herself. She was a respected voice in the state legislature – a feisty warrior who stood by her morals, ethics and beliefs, but who equally knew that common ground was usually found in the middle with well reasoned compromise. Always with a smile on her face, Laura could melt a tense situation in an instant. She was universally respected, highly praised and admired by many, and genuinely loved by all who knew her.

For Laura, her greatest love was always her family. Rarely did a conversation start or end without the mention of her husband, any one or more of her children, and often her grandchildren. Nearly every story told or situation she found her self involved, was weaved with tales, analogies, and reflections of her family.

I am proud to have called Laura a true friend, and I will miss her dearly, but I am comforted that she is in the loving hands of our creator, at peace, without pain, and smiling down on all of us with gratitude for a life well lived.

Her family has indicated that they greatly appreciate the outpouring of love and support, but hope too that we will respect their private time as arrangements are made over the next few days.

Estate of Denial® extends our deepest condolences to the Knaperek family.