Children of Same-Sex Couples: Not Out of the Woods Yet

Marriage equality is now the law, but prior bans on same-sex weddings continue to affect parental rights. Take the case of Michael Conover, who I will refer to by his former name, Michelle, and his former gender, female, because that was his identity at the time of the trial. Michelle and her … [Read more...]

Joint Ownership Just for Convenience Can Be Perilous

    It is common to see an asset transferred into joint name solely for the convenience of the original owner. The unintended consequences of joint ownership, however, can lead to unpleasant surprises. The fact pattern is familiar: an aging relative may ask you to be a … [Read more...]

Novel Ways To Revoke A Will

Each new Last Will and Testament automatically revokes the old one. But can a Will be revoked without executing a new one? Absolutely, and some ways of revoking a Will in Maryland may surprise you. Destruction – A Will is revoked by “burning, cancelling, tearing, or obliterating” it. If a Will is … [Read more...]

Why Turning 69 1/2 is an Important Date for Your IRA

Got an IRA?  Mark on your calendar the date you will turn 69 and one-half.  Learn why from Natalie Choate, who is legendary among estate planning attorneys for her knowledge of IRA regulations:  … [Read more...]

Why Do People Fail To Address Estate Planning?

It’s a puzzle we encounter regularly: Why do so many successful people fail to address their estate planning? Some plausible reasons why are suggested in a new article on the Huffington Post: “Why We Avoid Estate Planning” … [Read more...]

Here is a link to thoughtful article about spurring your parents to do their own estate planning, from the Christmas Eve edition of the Chicago Tribune

As families come together for the holidays, the last thing anyone may be thinking is, "Gee, I should talk to my folks about their financial situation!" But with busy lives, these gatherings may be a good time to at least broach the topic and to schedule a future date to conduct the dreaded, but … [Read more...]

We like this short, sensible article out of Georgia on how the holiday season can be an opportune time to inform family members of your estate plan. … [Read more...]

Tom Clancy’s widow and children (from a prior marriage) are battling in Baltimore City probate court over a technical tax issue in his Will worth millions of dollars

“It is hard for us to discern which side is correct based on a journalist’s report of the allegations made by just one side of the dispute.  The dispute itself, however, underscores the care we attorneys must employ when crafting such provisions and integrating them into an overall estate plan for a … [Read more...]

Nontaxable gifts QUADRUPLED in 2012, as described in this Bloomberg article! … [Read more...]

Ambiguity is in the Eye of the Beholder

Using computer software, Joanne Click wrote a will in which she gave her residuary estate to “the surviving members in order of succession.” What did she mean? Who gets her estate? The case, known as Click v. Click, hinged on whether her words were ambiguous. One court said they were ambiguous. … [Read more...]

Good News! You Don’t Have to Be Sane!

It is customary for a last will and testament to begin with a statement that the person making the will (the “testator”) is “of sound mind” or words to similar effect.  Although it is a nice custom (and one that we follow), it has at least two oddities.  First, it proves little, since schizophrenics … [Read more...]

Privacy, Revocable Trusts and the Hackerman Estate

The late William Hackerman might have preferred to place more of his assets in his revocable trust, if only to shield them from the prying eyes of the Baltimore Business Journal. Mr. Hackerman spent nearly 60 years as CEO of the Whiting-Turner Contract Company, a major real estate developer in … [Read more...]

Supreme Court: “Your Children’s Creditors May Inherit Your IRA”

An individual retirement account (IRA) is generally exempt from the creditors of the original owner or participant.  Even after the death of the participant, a surviving spouse can achieve the same protection from his own creditors by “rolling over” the account into his own IRA (assuming the spouse … [Read more...]

A Big Wynne for Maryland Taxpayers?

The US Supreme Court just might give you a state income tax refund next year.  (Or maybe not.) On May 27, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case involving a Maryland income tax credit that, according to the highest court in Maryland, is structured in a way the violates the US Constitution.  The … [Read more...]

Governor Enacts Estate Tax Cut

On May 15, Governor Martin O’Malley signed a new law that will ease the estate tax burden for thousands of Maryland families. Under prior law, estates of decedents owning $1 million or less are exempt from Maryland estate tax, and larger estates are taxed on wealth in excess of $1 million (at an … [Read more...]

How NOT to Probate an Estate

Serving as a Personal Representative can lead to headaches if you don’t follow the rules. Consider a recent federal case from nearby Anne Arundel County, United States v. Shriner.  Mrs. Shriner died in 2004, and she failed to file income tax returns for the last several years of her life.  Her … [Read more...]


Maryland is ready to shed its reputation as one of the “worst places to die,” if Governor Martin O’Malley signs recent estate tax legislation into law. As previously blogged, the General Assembly passed a bill (HB 83) that would gradually increase the Maryland estate tax exemption from its … [Read more...]

Bill increasing the Maryland estate tax exemption amount passes the Maryland Senate

Previously, we updated you that the Maryland House of Delegates passed House Bill 739 which would increase the Maryland estate tax exemption amount over the next 5 years.  Today, the Maryland Senate voted to pass the cross-filed Senate Bill 602.  Governor Martin O'Malley will still need to sign or … [Read more...]

SB321 Standards for Personal Representatives – Legislative Update

On February 27, the Maryland Senate passed SB321 by a vote of 46-0.  SB321 would define the term "serious crime" for the purpose of disqualifying an individual to serve as the Personal Representative of the estate.  You can read our original blog post on the bill here. As of today, the House … [Read more...]

Maryland Estate Tax Legislation Update

On Friday, the Third Reading of  House Bill 739, regarding an increase in the Maryland estate tax exemption amount, passed the Maryland House of Delegates by a vote of 119-14.  This bill is different from the one we highlighted a few weeks ago in the following ways: The increase in assets … [Read more...]

MD General Assembly considers clarifying standards for Personal Representatives

The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee has voted favorably on Senate Bill 321, which would define the term "serious crime" in the statute regarding prohibitions on certain individuals being appointed as Personal Representative in an estate. Currently, Maryland Code Estates and Trusts … [Read more...]

IRS releases its “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams for 2014

Annually, the Internal Revenue Service releases a list of tax scams for taxpayers to be on the look-out for during tax season.  The list, with descriptions, can be found on the IRS website. This year, the list includes: Identity Theft Pervasive Telephone Scams Phishing False Promises of … [Read more...]

Maryland General Assembly bill seeks to recouple Maryland estate tax with the Federal estate tax

The Maryland General Assembly has a bill before it that would increase the Maryland estate tax exemption amount by $1,000,000 each calendar year until the state exemption matches the federal exemption in 2017.  The estate tax in Maryland would progress as follows: Prior to January 1, 2014 - … [Read more...]

Transportation Tax Extender and Others Expired on December 31, 2013

In a post last year, we wrote about the pending expiration of the IRA charitable contribution tax break on December 31, 2013.  In addition to this tax break, many others expired as well.  Congress can retroactively renew the extenders (so called because the tax breaks must be renewed each year), but … [Read more...]

Happy New Year! Do you need to file a 2013 Gift Tax Return?

Happy 2014!! If you made a gift exceeding $14,000 to any beneficiary (including trusts) in 2013, you may have to file a gift tax return by April 15, 2014. Please contact our office if you have any questions. … [Read more...]

Farah Fawcett’s Art Collection Subject of Court Battle

In her revocable trust, actor Farah Fawcett left her artwork to the University of Texas.  However, she did not provide a listing of the artwork, and there is an ongoing battle over a painting of Ms. Fawcett by artist Andy Warhol. When leaving art or other collections to beneficiaries under a Will … [Read more...]

IRA Charitable Contribution Tax Break Scheduled to End

If you are over 70 and 1/2 years old, you are required to take a minimum amount from your traditional IRA every year before December 31.  This withdrawal (called the Required Minimum Distribution, or RMD) is taxed at your current income tax rate.  If you are in a situation where you do not need your … [Read more...]

Supreme Court Upholds IRS Enforcment of 40% Penalty on Taxpayers Who Used COBRA Tax Shelters

In the 1990's "COBRA" tax shelters were used to generate taxable losses on paper to offset regular taxable income. The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the taxpayers who used these tax shelters are subject to a 40% penalty on unpaid income taxes.  Read more at Forbes. … [Read more...]

Are You Getting a Divorce? It’s Time to Review Your Estate Plan.

Nichols v. Baer, __ Md. __ (No. 33, September Term, 2011, decided October 22, 2013). How do you know if it is time to update your Will?  Every three years is a good rule of thumb, but a more important rule is to review your will whenever your family has a new birth, death, marriage or divorce. … [Read more...]

Napoleon’s Transcribed Will Up For Auction

Napoleon wrote his Last Will and Testament in exile in 1821. It left his meager possessions to his friends on the island of Saint Helena. Napoleon also directed that his ashes be scattered along the Seine River in Paris. The King of France ignored that request and Napoleon's remains didn't make it … [Read more...]

IRS 2014 Inflation Adjustments And Your Taxes

The IRS has released the 2014 Inflation Adjustments. The estate tax lifetime exemption amount will increase to $5.34 million. The annual exclusion for gift tax will remain the same at $14,000. On the income tax side, a married couple earning over $457,600 or an individual earning over $406,750 … [Read more...]

What is the impact of United States v. Windsor on your estate plan?

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Windsor that 1 U.S.C. §7, also known as Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), is unconstitutional because it violates the due process protections of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the concept of equal protection as … [Read more...]

Choosing a Crummey trust isn’t a crummy idea!

Deriving its name from a taxpayer that succeeded in getting an annual exclusion when setting up a trust for his children, a Crummey trust can help shield money from gift and estate taxes if it is properly set up and administered.  Here is an example of how a Crummey trust works: Your estate planner … [Read more...]

How Pet Trusts can Protect your Animals

The ASPCA reports that over 62% of American households have pets today. Animals have increasingly become more important to families. Traditionally, the law recognized animals as property, however legislators have come to recognize that many animals are situated in a modern family between being more … [Read more...]

It’s always the little things in an Estate….

In our last post, we discussed the process of “probate” and what the Personal Representative or Executor must do to begin the process.  This week, we will look at some of the loose ends that need to be tied up after Personal Representative is appointed through the probate process. First, ensure … [Read more...]

I’ve been named Personal Representative of an estate. What do I do next?

Part of our practice at the Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims is helping Personal Representatives and Executors with the probate process (estate administration).  Often, this is the client's first time experiencing the probate process and they have many questions.  This post is an overview of some of … [Read more...]

How Bank Loan Agreements can effect your Estate

In Maryland, when a person passes away their assets are gathered by their Personal Representative, and their debts are paid from those assets.  However, if you have both a loan and a savings or checking account at a single financial institution, your bank agreements may change the disposition of … [Read more...]

Old English In Terrorem (No Contest) Provisions Brought the Wrath of God into Wills

"In Terrorem" provisions, also called "no contest" provisions, are included in Wills to prevent legatees who are unhappy with their share of an estate from challenging a Will. In Terrorem provisions do this by stating that if the legatee challenges the Will without cause, he or she receives … [Read more...]

What happens if I don’t have a Will?

Many times we are asked by clients, “Why do I even need a Will?”  The answer can be simple or complex depending on the client’s assets, family and goals.  Perhaps most importantly, however, if you do not have a Will, state law determines how your assets will pass upon your death. Our firm works … [Read more...]

Owning Property as an Unmarried Couple

The traditional progression of a relationship is marriage then homeownership.  However, many couples are postponing marriage and purchasing property together first.  Owning joint property before marriage can cause problems down the road if the couple does not plan ahead with the assistance of a … [Read more...]

New 3.8% Federal Surtax on Estates, Trusts and Individuals

Section 1402 of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 amended the Internal Revenue Code by inserting Chapter 2A – “Unearned Income Medicare Contribution”.  This new chapter introduces a 3.8% surtax on individuals and estates and trusts.  It is important for individuals and … [Read more...]

New scam in Maryland targets Personal Representatives

Our office has been made aware of a scam in Maryland that is targeting persons listed as the Personal Representative of an estate.  Personal Representatives are receiving notices from a company (calling itself IRFS) that fraudulently state that IRFS is a collections firm working for the Comptroller … [Read more...]

Attorneys at the Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims named to the Super Lawyers List for 2013

Jane Frankel Sims and Laura Lynn Thomas have been named to the Super Lawyers Rising Stars list for 2013!  To be selected for this list, Jane and Laura's names were submitted by their peers and ranked against other lawyers by the following indicators: Verdicts and … [Read more...]

*ALERT* Marriage Equality in Maryland Update

On January 1, 2013, the definition of marriage in Maryland will be expanded to include same-sex couples.  The Comptroller of Maryland’s office has confirmed that all surviving spouses will be exempt from inheritance tax, regardless of the spouses’ respective genders.  However, the change in the … [Read more...]

Fiscal Cliff Information for our Clients

Every time we turn on the television or browse the internet, there is another report on the “Tax Cliff.”  The Tax Cliff is the expiration of the tax cuts passed during the administration of President George W. Bush, as well as the 2% payroll tax holiday passed by President Obama. The Tax Cliff is … [Read more...]

The Lottery and Estate Planning

If a resident of Maryland wins the Powerball drawing tonight, the winnings will be subject to a 25% federal tax and an 8.5% Maryland state tax. If a Maryland winner passes away after claiming the check and proper estate planning is not completed, the majority of the winnings would be subject to … [Read more...]

Jane and the Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims, LLC are highlighted in this week’s BBJ

Full BBJ article … [Read more...]

Inherited IRA’s

These days, an Individual Retirement Accounts (“IRAs”) seems to be part of most Americans’  retirement plans.  In the event that the owner of an IRA passes away and he or she has designated you as a beneficiary of such account, there are many issues for you to consider prior to distribution.  … [Read more...]

Why sign my will in my attorney’s office

Why should I sign a Will in my lawyer’s office? Once your attorney has finalized your Will for your signature, you might not feel compelled to take the time to sign the Will at your attorney’s office. Perhaps executing the Will seems self-explanatory to you. Perhaps your attorney’s office is not … [Read more...]

Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives for children over 18

Your child is eagerly awaiting high school graduation and the summer before entering college. You have your college shopping checklist full and ready to go. Or do you? As your 18 year old heads off on a life adventure, you should talk to him or her about signing a Power of Attorney and an Advance … [Read more...]

Estate planning for the business owner

Samsung Electronics began in 1938 as a dried fish and produce company in South Korea.  Today, it is a worldwide conglomerate that is engaged in manufacturing electronics and military equipment, as well as providing other goods and services.  When founder Lee Byung Chul died in 1987, he passed his … [Read more...]

Same-sex Marriage and Inheritance Tax in Maryland

According to the Orphans' Court for Baltimore City, the Register of Wills in all jurisdictions in Maryland have been instructed to handle same-sex marriages as they would valid common law marriages, including exemption from inheritance taxes! This means that if a same-sex couple who was married … [Read more...]

Founder and Managing Attorney, Jane Frankel Sims, recognized as a Very Important Professional Under 40

Founder and Managing Attorney, Jane Frankel Sims, has been recognized as one of the Daily Record's Very Important Professionals Under 40 for 2012!  Jane will be honored on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at The Baltimore Museum of Art. For more details and a complete list of honorees:  … [Read more...]

Who are your children?

Since the invention of in vitro fertilization, interesting legal questions surrounding the process and the children born have occurred frequently.  The State of Maryland and the United States Supreme Court both addressed the issue of posthumously conceived children this spring and the changes … [Read more...]

New Statutory Power of Attorney Form

New Statutory Power of Attorney Form approved by Governor Martin O’Malley In 2010, Maryland enacted the General and Limited Power of Attorney Act.  This act created a Power of Attorney form that, if properly executed, must be honored by a financial institution.  If a financial institution refuses … [Read more...]

New Photos of the team at the Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims

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Tax Exacta: The Preakness Stakes and Estate Taxes

The 137th Preakness Stakes will be run in Baltimore on May 19th.  Thousands of spectators will descend upon Pimlico Race Course to watch 12 thoroughbred horses race the track.  But few will wonder, where do the race horses reside when they are not racing? In Maryland, horse farms occupy over … [Read more...]

The Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims Named a Finalist in the 2012 Maryland Chamber’s Small Business Awards

The Maryland Chamber recently announced the finalists for the 2012 Small Business Awards in the 1-10 Employee category and The Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims was honored to be one of this year's finalists. The firm is extremely honored and excited about this recognition. The awards will be … [Read more...]

Estate and Gift Taxes in an election year – What will the future hold?

Many of the tax provisions enacted by Congress at the end of 2010 are set to expire on December 31, 2012.  Currently, there is a $5 million estate tax exemption and a tax rate of 35% on any amount over $5 million.  The gift tax exemption amount is currently $5 million and the generation skipping … [Read more...]

IMPORTANT Federal Estate and Gift Tax update

Estate and Gift Tax Rules May be Changing for the Worse… Take Advantage of the Current Rules before the end of 2012 As you may know, President Obama released his 2013 Budget Proposal on Monday.  Included in the proposal are changes to the estate tax, gift tax and generation skipping-transfer tax … [Read more...]

UPDATE on 2012 Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning

Last week, owner and Managing Attorney Jane Frankel Sims and Associate Attorney John Robinson attended the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning in Orlando, Florida. The Heckerling Institute is “the nation’s leading conference for estate planners.” This was Jane’s third year and John’s first year … [Read more...]


The current Federal gift tax exemption of $5 million (or $10 million for married couples who elect to split gifts) is scheduled to revert to $1 million (or $2 million for married couples who elect to split gifts) on January 1, 2013. A proposal was submitted to the Super Committee to revert to a $1 … [Read more...]

The Law Offices of Jane Frankel Sims welcomes two new employees!

Jane Frankel Sims, Founder and Managing Attorney of the Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims, LLC, located in Towson, Maryland, is pleased to announce the expansion of her legal team with the addition of Laura Lynn Thomas and Sofia Scharlock.  Ms. Thomas and Mrs. Scharlock join Associate Attorney John … [Read more...]

Founder and Managing Attorney is named a 2011 Daily Record Leading Woman

The Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims is proud to announce that its Managing Attorney, Jane Frankel Sims is being recognized as a 2011 Daily Record Leading Woman. This prestigious award is designated for exemplary young women under the age of 40 showing leadership and excellence. As … [Read more...]

Founder and Managing Attorney – Jane Frankel Sims wins Prestigious Smart CEO 2011 Brava Award

The Brava Women Business Achievement Awards celebrate women business leaders who combine their irrepressible entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for giving back to the community. Join SmartCEO as we induct past Brava! winners into the Hall of Fame and celebrate the 2011 award recipients at an … [Read more...]

The Estate Planner’s Storybook of Everyday Tales and Unexpected Endings

Mrs. Mildred Brown had been banking with First County Savings Bank and its predecessors for over thirty years.  Fearful of the stock market, Mrs. Brown kept the vast majority of her assets in savings accounts at the bank.  The teller at the local branch knew Mrs. Brown and her daughter, Cindy, well … [Read more...]


At the Law Office of JANE FRANKEL SIMS, we advise individuals and families on the tax-efficient transfer of wealth to the next generation. Our services are tailored to each client’s specific situation. For a complete list of our services, click here or call 410-828-7775.