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The Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims
YOUR Estate Matters
November 2015

November marks the beginning of the holiday season with Thanksgiving just weeks away. During the next few months, you will most likely celebrate with family and friends. This is an important opportunity to  ensure that those who mean the most to you are taking care of their estate planning. I realize that this is not a typical holiday topic but there are limited opportunities to have your family in one place at the same time to discuss important matters, such as updating Wills and beneficiary designations, as well as minimizing estate tax. These are just a few examples of conversations which may feel awkward but are necessary.

We wish you a wonderful, fun-filled Thanksgiving, and we want to extend our thanks to you for being a valued connection.

As always, we are interested in YOUR insights to subjects found in each issue. Please send us any comments by replying to the email.


Our Latest Blog Post
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 partner, Brittany Eckel, were living in DC and had been in a committed same-sex relationship for several years when, in 2010, they had a child together. They decided Brittany would be artificially inseminated from an anonymous sperm donor. The child was a boy (named Jaxon), and his birth certificate listed Brittany as the mother and contained no entry for the father.
A small number of states had recognized same-sex marriages prior to the time Jaxon was conceived, but DC first began to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples only a month before he was born. Six months after his birth, Michelle and Brittany wed in DC.
Unfortunately, they eventually separated and came to loggerheads over Jaxon in a Maryland court. There was no question as to Brittany's parental rights, as she was certified as the biological mother. Michelle, however, found herself on less certain legal ground.
Michelle claimed parental rights under a Maryland statute providing that, when a woman has a child out of wedlock and then marries a man who acknowledges himself to be the father, he assumes the responsibilities of a parent in the eyes of the law. The courts, however, concluded that this statue does not grant fathers custody or visitation rights (even though it could be used to make Michelle pay child support or to let Jaxon inherit her property.) As far as child custody and visitation was concerned, Michelle and Jaxon were unrelated.
Perhaps the most interesting argument is one that was not made, because Michelle never challenged the constitutionality of Maryland's laws while in the trial court. She could have argued, for example, that Maryland custody and visitation law discriminates unfairly on the basis of sexual orientation or perhaps on the basis of gender. In fact, she tried to make that very argument to the appellate court, dedicating almost half of her written brief to the issue. The appellate court hinted that her constitutional arguments had some heft, but it declined to address them, since Michelle had never given the trial court an opportunity to rule on them first.
Michelle is now seeking further review by Maryland's highest court, which has not yet decided whether to take her case.
Click this link if you missed our previous blog post:

Jane's Q&A Session
Top 10 Estate Planning Misconceptions
During my years as an estate planning attorney, I have noticed that there are common misconceptions voiced by many of my clients. I have decided to share the top 10 misconceptions with you each month, starting with #10. Here is #9, our second misconception . I would be happy to explore these questions with you in more detail. Just give me a call. 
Q: Is it wrong that I never put much thought into designating beneficiaries of my retirement accounts?
A:  The reality is:
1. Most working people hold the majority of their assets in the form of retirement accounts and homes.
2. Retirement accounts pass by beneficiary designation, not by Will.
3. You can have a beautiful Will that gives everything to your spouse and children but if you still have your sister as your beneficiary on your retirement account from way back before you were married, it is your sister who inherits the account, and thus, the bulk of your assets.
4. Retirement account beneficiary designations can have major income tax  consequences.
Help us to congratulate o ur Founder and Managing Attorney, Jane Sims, who was sworn in as a member of the Pennsylvania Bar in October! If you have friends, family or clients in Pennsylvania, we can now work with them on their estate planning matters. 
The Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims is expanding its reach to the New York and Philadelphia markets. We are pleased to announce that the firm has become of counsel for trusts and estates matters to the law firm of Soler & Partners, a law firm concentrating on intellectual property with a focus on the fashion industry. We will be primarily assisting S&P's New York and Philadelphia based business owner and executive clients on trusts and estates matters. Stay tuned next month for another major announcement!  

Guess who is playing Satan in an upcoming play? If you guessed David Forrer, you are right! David is not only a brilliant lawyer, but he is also an accomplished actor. 
Help us to support David by attending the play "The Last Days of Judas Iscariot".  

Performances are Friday November 20 at 7:30 pm, Saturday November 21 at 7:30 pm, and Sunday November 22 at 3:30 pm. All performances are FREE and take place at Memorial Episcopal Church, 1407 Bolton Street.
To learn more- Click Here
The firm sponsored the 15th annual Art With A Heart event on November 12th at the Lyric with George Benson. This photo is of paralegals Cristina Lujan and Sofia Scharlock with their husbands at the event.
We thank you for your business and support for our firm.  Feel free to call us at 410-828-7775 with any estate planning questions or concerns, and as always we are most grateful for your referrals.  


Thank you,
Jane's Jane

Jane Frankel Sims
Founder/Managing Att orney

The Law Office of Jane Frankel Sims


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