Following his suicide in August of 2014, we learned that Robin Williams had crafted a rather sophisticated estate plan that protected his assets well, and left directions for how he wished his property to be distributed after his death. Unfortunately, it appears that some of the language in that estate plan was not as clear as it could have been, as the former actor’s children and representatives of his estate are now battling over who is entitled to receive some of the items he left behind. The courtroom fight, taking place in California, is set to come to a hearing in early June, and mostly surrounds some of the actor’s tangible personal property.
Williams Estate Fight Surrounds Personal Property
The dispute over the Williams estate is about the actor’s personal property and possessions, and is taking place between his widow, Susan Schneider Williams, and his three children from the actor’s first two marriages. Williams apparently left his children his jewelry, memorabilia, and other tangible personal property as a part of their inheritances, and gave his wife the right to reside in one of his homes, owned by a trust, for the rest of her life. She also had the right to retain the tangible contents of that home, located in Tiburon, California. The dispute has arisen because Schneider Williams believes she should be able to keep the personal items located in the Tiburon, California home even though they might be considered jewelry or memorabilia.
Learning From The Williams Estate
Like many people with a lot of property, Williams had taken the time to craft an estate plan that protected his property, such as by creating at least two types of trusts to protect his real estate holdings and other high-dollar assets. The current dispute taking place over the tangible personal property is one of the more common types of disagreements that can arise after a family member dies, especially in blended family situations. Further, that Williams apparently included language in his plan that is somewhat unclear in how it addresses the issue makes the dispute more complicated.
Avoiding these kinds of disputes is often a matter of making your intentions known in simple, yet precise, language. When you craft your inheritance plan you will want your attorney to be clear about what your wishes are. Your lawyer can then draft a plan that reflects these wishes accurately, and with little room for ambiguity.
In most situations, stating your wishes without falling back on unnecessary legalese can be key.
You want your desires to be known, and it’s probably best to make your choices clear before you die. While it may be an uncomfortable discussion to have, making it clear to your family exactly what you your choices are so that no one is unclear about them can go a long way in heading off potential conflicts.