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What Can We Learn from Robin Williams' Estate Planning Missteps?

As I have previously discussed, in spite of thorough planning, the estate of Robin Williams faces additional legal action from Susan Williams, the spouse of the late actor. However, these problems may be avoided by remembering the following tips.

Before taking his own life, Robin Williams had an estate plan in place that appeared to take care of his children and distribute his property. However, now his widow and his children are fighting in court over portions of the estate as it seems they disagree about the meaning of certain provisions in Williams' estate plan. If an estate plan is not crystal clear on certain intentions, a mess can ensue.

What can we learn from this?

Recently, the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog published a list of lessons in an article titled "Learning From the Estate Problems of Robin Williams."

The list includes:

  • Specify who gets each particular item, especially if the items are valuable. Williams grouped many of his valuable possessions together in his estate plan. Which specific items belong to which group is a point of contention.
  • Hold a meeting of all heirs so that everyone knows who gets what beforehand.
  • Have professional witnesses oversee the process so that they can raise appropriate questions about any ambiguities.
  • Include provisions in a will that make it difficult to challenge.

Now, would be a good time to review your estate plan with an experienced estate planning attorney to make sure that you have not made any of the same mistakes.

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