According to the Daily Record, Tom Clancy’s widow, Alexandra Llewellyn Clancy, is attempting to remove J.W. Thompson Webb, Clancy’s estate attorney, as personal representative of Clancy’s estate. Clancy’s estate is valued at a $83 million, a majority of which is Clancy’s 12-percent-stake in the Baltimore Orioles. Mrs. Clancy claims that Webb made mistakes in preparing Clancy’s will and estate plan which have cost the estate approximately $6 million in taxes. However, under Maryland law, a beneficiary of an estate cannot sue the attorney who drafted the will. The suit must be brought by the personal representative of the estate. Since Webb is both the drafter of the will at issue and the personal representative, Mrs. Clancy must first have Webb removed as personal representative in order to sue him on behalf of her late husband’s estate.
Maryland is one of only a few states that does not allow beneficiaries to bring claims against attorneys for drafting mistakes. The reasoning behind the law is that it is the decedent and the estate, not its beneficiaries, who are the attorney’s client and to whom the professional duty of care was owed. Unfortunately, the rule creates problems when the estate lawyer who drafted the will is also serving as personal representative. The circumstances of the Clancy estate highlight why an estate lawyer may not be the best person to serve as personal representative.