Prominent Bethesda Attorney Dies Unexpectedly

Nancy Fax was a highly respected estate attorney and philanthropist


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Nancy Fax

Via Pasternak & Fidis

Updated 5 p.m.: Nancy Fax, the managing partner of the Bethesda law firm Pasternak & Fidis, died Monday after a brief illness.

Fax, 64, was the former chair of the Estate and Trust Law Section of the Maryland State Bar Association. Highly respected, Fax was chosen by her peers as one of the top estate lawyers in the Bethesda area for a story in the upcoming July/August issue of Bethesda Magazine. According to the story, “Only a handful of local estate attorneys win as many rave reviews as Fax, who, according to colleagues, expertly blends her knowledge of marriage, divorce and estate law.”

Fax, who lived in Chevy Chase, was an active philanthropist. A former chair of the Community Foundation for Montgomery County, Fax recently had joined the board of Identity, the Gaithersburg nonprofit that helps Latino youth. She also was a mentor for Future Link.

Fax served for 12 years on the Community Foundation board, the Foundation's Executive Director Anna Hargrave said. "She was just brilliant, kind, strategic, passionate and deeply devoted to our community," Hargrave said Tuesday.

Sally Rudney, the former executive director of the nonprofit Community Foundation in Montgomery County, called Fax a highly respected person who helped clients find the “most effective and most satisfying” way to give money to charity during estate planning.

“In my opinion, Nancy did more to encourage philanthropy than any other attorney in Montgomery County,” Rudney wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat.

Phil O’Donoghue, another estate lawyer, said he remembers Fax as a generous friend and a dedicated lawyer. He said an IRS agent he was working with once asked if he knew Fax and then described her as “the most formidable lawyer.”

“I thought, that is true,” O’Donoghue said. “Because if you had a negotiation with Nancy you knew she was completely committed to her client. And she was fair but never a pushover and always prepared and reasoned. And formidable was a good word for her.”

Though Fax was well into her career, her peers said she showed no signs of slowing down and, other than her sudden illness, was in remarkably good health. She worked out every day and kept active, Steven Widdes, an estate attorney, said. Recently, she had told him she planned to keep working forever.

“With her vibrancy and her organizational skills I didn’t doubt that,” Widdes said. “I just assumed she’d be around forever. It just feels like someone has been taken away from us that was a very special human being.”

Anne Coventry, an attorney at Pasternak & Fidis, wrote in an email to clients Tuesday morning that Fax had died after a “very brief, very unexpected, and very devastating illness.” She said Fax had been planning to undergo chemotherapy.

Pasternak & Fidis was closed Tuesday in mourning. Information on funeral services was not yet available.

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