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Robin Williams' estate put in the spotlight

It is not at all uncommon when a celebrity or some famous personage dies that a spate of talk arises regarding the individual’s estate plan—what they did well, what they overlooked, and how we can all learn some lesson from their example. Robin Williams is among the most recent to be subjected to this scrutiny, and we’re happy to participate in the chatter. After all, we can indeed learn valuable lessons from the way the rich and famous handle their estates.

In Williams’ case, the details of his estate plan are not entirely clear, but it seems that he did not leave a Last Will and Testament. Rather, he had in recent years set up a couple of trusts, one for his real estate and another one in connection with his divorce from Marsha Garces. In that trust, which appears to be more connected to the divorce, he provided for his three children. The real estate trust was set up, at least in part, to achieve tax savings, which was a smart move. 

Williams also had life insurance, which doesn't pass through probate. That means that—other than his ongoing royalties, image and likeness and other such property, which will be handled by his estate—Williams was successful in avoiding the publicity and hassle of probate for most of his property. Still there are improvements that could have been made to Williams’ plan.

Those who want to come up with an efficient estate plan that is appropriate for their circumstances should work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure they receive accurate legal advice and good guidance with respect to planning their estate. 

Source: CNBC.com, “Robin Williams’ estate plan: Good, but not great,” Kelley Holland, August 12, 2014. 

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