Tom Clancy, renowned author, died on October 1, 2013. Tom died with an estate worth approximately $83 million. Tom was survived by his wife, Alexandra Clancy, a daughter born to Tom and Alexandra and four adult children from Tom’s prior marriage.
When Tom died, he left a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) that governed the disposition of his probate assets. The Will provided that his probate estate is to be divided into thirds – one-third to his wife in trust (the “Marital Trust”), one-third to his wife and all of his children in trust (the “Family Trust”) and one-third to his children from his prior marriage in trust (the “Children’s Trust”).
Due to the size of Tom’s estate and his estate planning elections, Tom’s estate is required to pay a significant amount in estate taxes, apparently approximately $16 million. Tom’s personal representative (aka executor) allocated a portion of the taxes owed to Alexandra’s inheritance. Alexandra objected and claimed that based on a codicil that Tom executed, which amended the terms of his Will, Tom’s intent was that no portion of her inheritance would be responsible for the estate taxes. Rather, Alexandra claims the entire burden should be borne by the portion going to Tom’s four adult children from his prior marriage.
As a result of Alexandra’s claim, a dispute ensued between her and Tom’s adult children. On August 21, 2015, a Baltimore judge ruled in favor of Alexandra, a decision that is likely to cause a protracted legal battle.
This case provides a prime example to blended families of the importance of engaging in appropriate estate planning. Relationships can be finicky, especially relationships between a child and his or her step-father or step-mother. Estate planning should not be a straw that breaks the camel’s back and ruins that relationship. Not only that, disputes between children and their step-parents can erode the hard-earned estates of the deceased parent through legal fees, which could be avoided with appropriate planning.
If you have a blended family and do not have the appropriate estate planning in place, please contact our offices to further discuss your situation.