Most of the time, we use celebrity estate planning as examples of what NOT to do. In the case of Robin Williams, his is an example of what to do. According to many reports, Williams used a revocable living trust for his estate plan.
Among the many reasons to consider the use of a revocable living trust instead of a will, is privacy. Unlike a will, a properly set up and funded trust avoids the need for probate. Part of the reason we know so much about the estates of other stars such as Phillip Seymour Hoffman, James Gandolfini and Paul Walker, is that all or portions of their estates were subject to the probate process. Once in probate, anyone willing to pay the Court copy fees, can obtain a copy of virtually everything filed in the probate proceeding. That means they know what you had, who you owed, and more importantly, who your heirs are, when they will receive funds, how much they will receive, and how to contact them. A trust can avoid all of that.
A trust can also reduce the possibility of family disputes. Probate requires notice to all interested parties. That gives them a simple, and inexpensive, opportunity to cause problems. Again, because a trust avoids probate, there is no notice requirement to anyone other than the specifically named beneficiaries of the trust. This greatly reduces the likelihood of intra-family arguments.
Robin Williams estate plan may not have been perfect. However, by using a trust as his primary estate planning tool, he kept his affairs private and minimized the chances of a family dispute.
On a personal note: The world was brighter, better, and funnier with Robin Williams in it. Godspeed.
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