Tax Battle Brews Over Contested Will of Author Tom Clancy

Novelist’s Widow In Dispute With Author’s Children From a Former Marriage Over $83 Million Estate

By Scott Calvert for the Wall Street Journal

Author Tom Clancy made his fortune writing techno-thrillers featuring the exploits of Central Intelligence Agency analyst Jack Ryan. Now, less Tomy Clancy photo, maryland probate courtthan a year after the author’s death at age 66, his estate is spinning off intrigue in the staid world of probate court.

A tax battle is brewing over his $83 million estate, pitting Mr. Clancy’s wife against the adult children of his former marriage.

His widow Alexandra Clancy is taking legal steps aimed at shifting all state and federal estate taxes—estimated in court papers at as much as $16 million—to the portion of the estate Mr. Clancy willed to the four grown children he had with his first wife.

Much of Mr. Clancy’s estate consists of a 12% stake in the Baltimore Orioles, valued at $65 million, and among his more unusual possessions was a World War II tank with “very low mileage,” according to Maryland probate court filings. Mr. Clancy died in Baltimore in October 2013. He and Ms. Clancy had a daughter together.

Ms. Clancy, the sole or main beneficiary of two-thirds of the estate, claims in a court filing that the lawyer serving as the estate’s executor wrongly concluded that $6 million of the tax burden should be borne by a family trust of which she is the primary beneficiary.

“That is not what Mr. Clancy intended, and this proceeding seeks to prevent this improper, inequitable and unjust result,” her lawyers wrote in a petition filed Sept. 5 in Maryland probate court. They argue Mr. Clancy modified his will in July 2013 to ensure the family trust fell under the marital deduction, meaning her share would pay zero in estate taxes and the adult children’s portion would pay the entire amount.

Ms. Clancy’s lawyers, Norman Smith and Jeffrey Nusinov, declined to comment. J.W. Webb, the executor—called a “personal representative” in Maryland— also declined to comment. He drafted the July 2013 amendment, known as a codicil, and his firm advised Mr. Clancy on estate planning.

A judge has given Mr. Webb until Oct. 17 to file a response and in the meantime reined in his powers over the estate. Ms. Clancy wants Mr. Webb removed from any further involvement.

Sheila Sachs, a lawyer for the four adult Clancy children, questioned the validity of Ms. Clancy’s tax claim, saying Mr. Webb and his colleagues at the Miles & Stockbridge firm are “very fine lawyers.”

“Obviously, we would hope that the original determination by the personal representative is the correct one, because it would be more detrimental to my clients if it were not,” Ms. Sachs said.

The court filings also detail assets held by Mr. Clancy, who had awell-known fascination with military equipment that was on full display in such best-sellers-turned-blockbusters as “The Hunt for Red October” and “Patriot Games.” The tank is a rare 1943 M4A1 Sherman known as a Grizzly, said David Uhrig, a military-vehicle broker who appraised it for the estate. Only 188 were built, he wrote in a letter to the estate.Mr. Clancy kept it at his 535-acre Chesapeake Bay estate. , which was valued at $6.9 million.

An inventory filed with the court says he had a collection of 26 “handguns and long guns of various makes and models” valued at about $35,000.

“This is an extremely complete and original Grizzly and it is in very good condition on the exterior but the interior is rated only fair due to outside storage,” he wrote. Thanks to its low mileage, “the tracks and bogies are in excellent condition,” he added.

It isn’t clear if the inventory filed with the court is complete. The estate doesn’t include assets held jointly by Tom and Alexandra Clancy, including six penthouse condominiums spread across 17,000 square feet at the Ritz-Carlton Residences on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

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