A Boutique Trusts & Estates Law Firm

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

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

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. Failure to do so can have unfortunate consequences, as is demonstrated by a recent case from the Court of Appeals of Maryland, in which the judges split 4-3 on the question of whether a bequest was revoked by a divorce obtained after the Will was made.

Jesse and Virginia Suiters married in 1965 and separated in 1996. They apparently had no children. Seven years after they separated, Jesse made a Will in which he gave all of his assets to Virginia. If Virginia were to predecease him, he gave his estate to his sister (or, if she also predeceased him, to his sister’s descendants). Three years later, Jesse and Virginia finally divorced, and Jesse died only a few months after that.

Under Maryland law, a divorce automatically revokes the bequests that the divorcing spouses previously made for each other in their Wills, “unless otherwise provided in the will or [divorce] decree.” Virginia argued that Jesse had not revoked his gift to her because he had “otherwise provided” in both his Will and in the divorce decree. Virginia pointed to the fact that the divorce decree incorporated by reference the parties’ 1996 separation agreement, in which they had agreed that they each “may . . . bequeath any part or all of his or her estate to the other.” Virginia also noted that, in the portion of Jesse’s Will containing the bequest to her, he referred to Virginia my name without referring to her as his “wife.” Virginia won her case before the Orphans’ Court, then lost on appeal to the Circuit Court, then won again on appeal to the Court of Special Appeals.

When the case got to the Court of Appeals (the highest court in Maryland), a bare majority of the court rejected Virginia’s arguments, ruling that the divorce revoked Jesse’s gift to Virginia and that Jesse’s Will gave his entire estate to his nephews. (Jesse’s sister had apparently predeceased him; Virginia also passed away during the litigation.) To the majority, Jesse never “otherwise provided” because neither the decree nor the Will contain any statement indicating an intent that the divorce should not revoke the bequest.

It is unfortunate that Jesse did not update his Will after his divorce, since a one-sentence codicil could have clarified his intent and avoided years of costly litigation.

If you are anticipating or have experienced a recent life event such as birth, death, marriage or divorce, our office would be happy to assist you in making sure a custom estate plan is in place to fulfill your wishes and provide for your loved ones. Please contact us at (410) 828-7775.

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For Immediate Release

Contact: Jane Frankel Sims

410-828-7775

Contact: Frank Campbell

410-263-1667

Sims & Campbell Estates and Trusts

Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell
Merge to Form Sims & Campbell

Firm will offer comprehensive Trusts & Estates services through offices in Towson and Annapolis

TOWSON, Md. (April 26,2019)  Frankel Sims Law and Holden & Campbell have jointly announced the merger of their firms to create a boutique Trusts & Estates law firm providing comprehensive services in the fields of Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Trust Administration and Charitable Giving. The combined firm will be named Sims & Campbell and have offices in Towson, Md. and Annapolis, Md.  Jane Frankel Sims and Frank Campbell will lead and hold equal ownership stakes in the firm.

Sims & Campbell will have 9 attorneys and 15 legal professionals that handle every facet of estate and wealth transfer planning, including wills, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, estate and gift tax advice, and charitable giving strategies.  The firm will focus solely on Trusts & Estates but will serve a wide range of clients, from young families with modest resources to ultra-high net worth individuals.  This allows clients to remain with the firm as their level of wealth and the complexity of related estate and tax implications change over time. 

“By joining forces, we have expanded our footprint to conveniently serve clients in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia” said Jane Frankel Sims.  We are seeing some of the greatest wealth transfer in our country’s history, and we want to continue to be on the leading edge of helping our clients maintain and enhance their family’s wealth.  In addition, we aim to serve our clients for years to come, and the new firm structure will allow Sims & Campbell to thrive even after Frank and I have retired.”    

“Jane and I have always admired each other’s firms and recognized the need to provide even greater depth and breadth of focused expertise to help families amass and protect their wealth from generation to generation,” said Frank Campbell.  “Now we have even greater capabilities to make a real difference for our clients.” 

The Sims & Campbell Towson office is located at 500 York Road, on the corner of York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in the heart of Towson.  The Annapolis office is currently located at 716 Melvin Avenue, and is moving to 181 Truman Parkway in August, 2019.  For more information, visit www.simscampbell.law.