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Friday, May 15, 2015

The Problems with Robin Williams’ Estate are Worth Avoiding

How do I to avoid common estate planning mistakes?

You may not be a celebrity like Robin Williams or be as wealthy as he was when he passed away in August, but you do have personal possessions. Some of them may have a lot of sentimental value to different family members and if it’s not decided who gets what, there may literally be arguments (and even lawsuits) over your personal property after you pass away. 

In this high profile dispute, Williams’ wife, Susan Williams, and his three adult children from prior marriages have agreed to try to resolve their differences over a tuxedo in which he was married, photos from his 60th birthday and other personal items belonging to the late actor and comedian, according to the Chicago Tribune. To date, disputes over these items have been the subject of hearings and motions filed in court. 

The disagreements include:

• Susan Williams claims the property in the house she lived in with Robin Williams should not be given to his children from previous marriages.

• She alleges some of her husband's personal items were taken out of the house without her permission.

• His three children (Zelda, Zack and Cody Williams) allege Susan Williams was trying to change a trust agreement and deprive them of things their father wanted them to have, including clothing, watches, photos taken prior to his marriage to her and entertainment awards.

It has been reported that Williams updated his estate plan prior to his death, but it wasn’t made clear who was going to get which personal mementos. Another complicating factor is that the disagreeing parties are children of different marriages and his third wife. If the four can’t reach a final resolution, they will meet with a mediator.

When putting together your estate plan and deciding what to do with your personal property, it’s important to consider the following: 

• Prioritize what you have based on the objects’ importance to you and your loved ones.

• Come up with a system as to how items should be distributed. It will be impossible to make the division equal, so try to make it fair and consistent.

• Talk to family members and ask them about the things they see as important and tell them what you want to do. 

• If everyone understands your wishes and how you decided, it should lessen any disappointment or frustration and decrease the chances of any legal action challenging your estate plan.

If you have questions about, or want help with, your estate plan, contact Berge & Berge. The firm serves clients in the South Bay Area including San Jose and Santa Clara County. Call today at (408)985-9918.


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