Nothing Funning About Continued Problems for Estate of Robin Williams

August 31, 2015 - Posted by: admin - In category:

taxes - No Responses

Family members are now fighting over bikes and other personal property items. What can we learn from this sad story?

Click here for a recent story about fighting over personal items.

Since his death just over a year ago, Robin Williams and his estate have often been in the news. Why are his family members still fighting in court? Who is paying for these legal battles? While those are good questions, perhaps a more helpful question for you and me is to ask what lessons we can learn and apply from this sad tale.

One of the most common themes following a death is that the landscape has changed dramatically for all who knew and cared about the deceased and this significant change can sometimes bring out the very worst in people. While there are happy exceptions, it is not uncommon for those left behind grieving to eventually turn their attention to what property is left behind and then to go about doing what they can to get such property for themselves, sometimes without regard the rights and feelings of others or the prior wishes of the deceased.  This is, admittedly, a worst case description, but it is also a common occurrence (even in Utah).

Now, you may be thinking that these problems arise only when there are millions of dollars at stake, as with the Robin Williams estate. While that is a very reasonable and rational idea, in my experience, this simply is not the case. Rather, if there is a pattern in my professional experience, it is that problems can often occur when there are few property items left behind and over which people must contend. Consider how many times you have witnessed children fighting over a few pieces of candy or over the last cookie. This reaction to scarcity can manifest itself in the context of people settling the affairs of a deceased person.

Remember also that with regard to Robin Williams, the article discusses a scramble and fight over bikes, books and other personal property items. While the cumulative value of these things is significant, these things really are “small potatoes” when compared to Robin’s overall estate. Another lesson to glean from this is that even if there is a large estate and many assets to distribute, you should not lose sight of or overlook smaller items of personal property. Don’t get caught up planning for only the large and highly valued items, while forgetting other items that could become a bone of contention for those left behind.

While you cannot guarantee that there will be no problems, you can do much to prevent most of such problems. Such prevention starts with good planning now, assisted by competent professionals, and includes ongoing maintenance and updates to such plans. As part of such advance planning, you will want to remember and account for personal property items of all types and varieties, regardless of whether you believe that such items are highly valued.

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