We Learned Many Things from Robin Williams . . . and Now We’re Learning from His Estate Plan

We Learned Many Things from Robin Williams . . . and Now We’re Learning from His Estate Plan

It’s been more than six months since Robin Williams’ tragic death. We were shocked and saddened by his suicide—we expect our public figures to be living happy, charmed lives, not to be suffering from anxiety and depression. We remember Williams for his incredible range and endurance—he kept us entertained for more than 40 years with not only his humor, but his thoughtful, more serious side.

And now Robin Williams is back in the news—or rather, his estate is

When it comes to his estate, Williams did almost everything right. At the time of his death, Williams had an updated Will, Estate Plan and a Prenuptial Agreement with his current, third wife. He left his $50M estate to his three children in a Living Trust, and as per their Prenuptial Agreement, he left his home in Tiburon to his wife. His end-of-life documents properly included homes and investments—the big-ticket items—but what it did not detail is the distribution of personal items and mementos—those things with sentimental value.

In Williams’ case, personal items and mementos are key

As someone who’s been in the public eye for 40+ years, with more than 75 movies to his credit, not to mention TV, stage and community appearances, this likely represents a significant collection of awards, accolades and memorabilia. And there is apparently a number of these items in that Tiburon home, which now belongs to Williams’ widow, to which his children are now laying claim.

What should Robin Williams have done?

In his Living Trust, he should have included a list of every single piece of memorabilia and made sure that each one was allocated to a single family member so there would be no dispute over who was the rightful heir.

Transparency makes the division of property equitable

When it comes to your own Living Trust and your family, the reality is that you can’t possibly make provisions for every single item, but experts advise that you try to identify those that mean the most to you and your family—especially those that could become contentious. A goal is to distribute items in as equitable a manner as possible so that each child is inheriting items with equal monetary and sentimental value. Some families divide up these personal mementos together while the parents are still alive; making the process as transparent as possible is a good way to avoid misunderstanding and contention later on.  

At California Document Preparers, when we prepare Living Trusts packages for our clients, there is a section to list these personal family mementos and identify the person who will be the recipient for each. Detailing this ahead of time avoids controversy later.

If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to prepare your Living Trust, stop in to one of our three California Document Preparers offices soon. We help our clients prepare their Living Trust documents.