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Famous author's wife, children in dispute over tax burden

Many Minnesotans may have enjoyed the novels of author Tom Clancy. However, about a year after the multimillionaire author's death, his family is engaged in a probate dispute that is starting to develop its own dramatic plot line.

The story of the Clancy family pits the author's widow against his four adult children, all of whom he had during a prior relationship. The potential inheritance over which they are battling is sizeable; Clancy's estate is valued at over $80 million.

What is interesting about this case is that the parties are not arguing over the value of the estate. Rather, the current issue pertains to the estimated $16 million estate tax bill that some of Clancy's beneficiaries will have to pay out of their share of the inheritance. The question now is who will have to foot that tax bill.

Clancy's widow is claiming that the executor incorrectly imposed that tax burden on a family trust fund of which Clancy's widow happens to be the primary heir. Clancy's widow is claiming instead that the author, at the time he created his estate planning documents, actually intended for the estate tax to come out of the share going to Clancy's grown children.

As this case illustrates, sometimes a Minnesota probate dispute can be more about who must pay what obligations than about who takes what property. Particularly in high-dollar states, the amount at stake can still be significant. For Minnesotans facing such cases, investing in the experience and wisdom of a seasoned Minnesota probate attorney may be a wise first step.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Tax Battle Brews Over Contested Will of Author Tom Clancy," Scott Calvert, Sept. 17, 2014

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