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Making increasing clarity for estate planning

Fans, family and friends were stunned that Robin Williams committed suicide. More recently, as New York residents may not know, the comedian's estate is now involved in a dispute between the actor's wife and his children.

According to one source, Williams planned out distribution of all of his belongings. His wife would receive his home and furniture in Tiburon, California. His accountant and estate planning attorney would pay for all of her home expenses. His children would receive his home in Napa Valley and all its contents; his memorabilia and awards in the entertainment industry from the Napa Valley home; and his clothing, jewelry and personal photos taken prior to his final marriage.

His wife, however, filed court claims to clarify distribution of some items. She argues that the term "memorabilia" in his will should only be including personal property from his acting career. She also disagrees with the term "jewelry," suggesting that it should not include his collection of watches. In her court filing, she asks the court to exclude all items in the Tiburon house from division, including the memorabilia that Williams specified should be given to his children.

Estate planning can be a difficult process, but for clients who want to set up a will, it can be important to plan ahead for all possible disagreements. Williams' wife debating terminology in the will is just one example of why the language in planning documents should be as clear as possible. In an effort to avoid such issues, those who are engaged in planning their estate might benefit from discussing their situation with a lawyer. That lawyer could help a client draft the necessary documents to establish a trust, taking care to make the language in the document as clear as possible.

Forbes, "Robin Williams' Widow Starts A Court Battle -- But Why?" Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Feb. 3, 2015

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