Tom Clancy's $82M estate focus of legal tussle between widow, lawyer

Largesse includes Orioles ownership, World War II tank

September 18, 2014|By Scott Dance and Justin George | The Baltimore Sun

The widow of Baltimore author Tom Clancy is battling her late husband's lawyer over $6 million in taxes she says she shouldn't owe on her share of Clancy's $82 million estate, which includes a World War II tank, a $65 million stake in the Orioles and a mansion on the Chesapeake Bay.

Alexandra Clancy is seeking to oust Baltimore lawyer J.W. Thompson "Topper" Webb as executor of Tom Clancy's will, accusing Webb of a mistake that adds unnecessarily to her estate tax bill. A 2013 amendment made to the will before Clancy died that October was supposed to have made her share tax-exempt, Alexandra Clancy's lawyer said, but Webb nevertheless is proposing she share a $16 million tax bill with Clancy's four adult children, according to a complaint filed in Baltimore Orphans' Court.

The documents reveal the breadth of Clancy's wealth amassed over his 28-year career writing blockbusters like "The Hunt for Red October" and "Patriot Games." He collected telescopes, firearms and manuscripts.

Along with his family, the Johns Hopkins Hospital stands to gain some of the largesse.

To Alexandra Clancy, whom he married in 1999, he left homes in Calvert County and Martha's Vineyard, according to the will. The Chesapeake Bay estate, dubbed Peregrine Cliff, features a 12,000-square-foot mansion on 80 acres and is assessed at $4.6 million, according to state property records, but valued at $6.9 million in estate documents. The property was the site of summer camps before Clancy and his first wife bought the land in 1987.

Alexandra Clancy also inherited a trust to be worth a third of the value of her husband's estate, according to the will.

But the estate tax dispute concerns the remainder of the estate, split between one trust to benefit Alexandra Clancy and all her husband's children and other trusts just to benefit his four adult children from his first marriage and their children. The adult children are Thomas Clancy III of Chicago, Michelle Bandy of Virginia Beach, Va., Christine Blocksidge of Prince Frederick, and Kathleen Clancy of Jupiter, Fla.

A 2013 amendment to Clancy's will specified that no assets should be included in Alexandra Clancy's trusts that would require her to pay estate taxes. Federal law allows transfers of assets between spouses to occur tax-free.

In executing the will, Webb proposed paying some of an estimated $16 million tax bill from the family trust shared by Alexandra Clancy and the children.

Her lawyer said that would end up costing the trust nearly $8 million. Norman L. Smith, an attorney with Fisher & Winner in Baltimore, said Webb's calculations add an unnecessary $6 million in taxes, and that bill would grow because each time money would be withdrawn from the trust to pay a tax bill, that sum would be itself subject to more taxes.

Webb, a principal with the law firm Miles & Stockbridge, did not return a phone message on Thursday.

"Mr. Webb's current position if accepted by the court can only mean that he and his firm drafted an amendment to the will that did not accomplish its intended purpose," Smith said.

A lawyer for Clancy's children said it's not clear whether Webb interpreted the will incorrectly, as Alexandra Clancy alleges.

"Miles and Stockbridge is a very competent law firm and their administration of the Estate may be in accord with the documents, although contrary to Ms. Clancy's position," wrote Sheila K. Sachs, an attorney with Gordon Feinblatt in Baltimore, in an email. "A court [or courts] will decide which interpretation is consistent with the testamentary documents and applicable law."

The will leaves any assets left over after division among Clancy's family to Hopkins, where he was treated for an eye disease known as pathological myopia. Clancy donated $2 million to the hospital in 2005 to establish an endowed chair at Hopkins' Wilmer Eye Institute.

Tom Clancy's stake in the Orioles is by far the estate's largest asset. Clancy was the second-largest investor in a group lawyer Peter G. Angelos assembled to buy the Orioles for $173 million in 1993, owning a 24 percent stake. That was divided in half in a divorce settlement with his first wife in 1999.

An appraiser valued his stake at just shy of $65 million in February, according to an estate inventory.

Other interests in the estate can be traced directly to Clancy's craft — the inventory lists $9.1 million worth of stakes in businesses including two that bear the name of Jack Ryan, the protagonist in many of Clancy's novels, as well as $1.2 million in "intellectual property and literary assets."

Clancy's personal property includes a Canadian-built army tank dating to 1943, a gift from his first wife. A military vehicle expert valued the tank at $250,000 in June. He also owned a collection of 26 handguns and long guns worth more than $35,000, a collection of telescopes, watches, jewelry and a pool table.

The estate inventory also lists a condominium in Canton valued at $520,000, purchased in 1999, according to state property records. But it does not mention Clancy's 17,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton condo valued at nearly $11 million, according to state property records. Alexandra Clancy lives there with daughter Alexis Clancy, who is still a minor, according to court records.

sdance@baltsun.com

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