What Utah residents can learn from Robin Williams on the subject of estate planning

August 18, 2014 - Posted by: admin - In category:

taxes - No Responses

The news of Robin William’s recent death is, of course, very sad.  One potential bright spot may be that Robin had enough foresight to engage in wise estate planning prior to his death, including using at least one family trust.  While it is still too early in the process to know for sure, early indications are that you will not be reading about Robin William’s estate details on the internet.


Even though the vast majority of people have no estate plan whatsoever (no Will, no Trust, nothing), a common view is that having a Will is both adequate and wise.  For some, this may be true, but the reality is that having a Will ensures a couple of things that may not be desired or intended–publicity and probate.  As a general rule, Wills in Utah must go through a court process called probate and therefore, such Wills will also become public record.  You and I can access information about Wills of famous people, such as Heath Ledger and/or Philip Seymour Hoffman because such well-know actors chose a Will as their estate planning vehicle, and therefore such Wills were subject to probate and thus, became public.


In contrast, assuming that Robin Williams did in fact utilize a Trust as his main estate planning vehicle, rather than relying on a Will, we may never know the exact details of his estate plan–because unlike a Will, an inter vivos Trust (i.e. a Trust established by a person during their life) is NOT filed with a court and can therefore remain totally private.

While we are saddened by the passing of Robin Williams, it is good to know that he was wise enough to engage in proper estate planning and thereby save his family and friends unwanted publicity down the road.  Utah residents, among others, would do well to learn from Mr. Williams and plan wisely for the future, including with regard to their estate plans.

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