ROBIN WILLIAMS’ ESTATE – THE VALUE OF WELL DRAFTED TRUSTS

A year after his death, Robin Williams’ third wife, Susan, and his kids Zachary (from his first marriage), Zelda and Cody (both from his second marriage), are still at war with one another.  The issues at stake are: division of his personal property, which was not explicitly dealt with in his trust, and; how much money is needed to maintain the residence that Susan shared with Williams, for which, per Williams’ estate planning documents, his estate is to provide sufficient funds to maintain during Susan’s life.

HOW DO I KNOW IF PROBATE HAS OCCURRED AND/OR IF THERE WAS A WILL?

There are some occasions where an individual may not be privy to whether a family member provided for them in their will, in life insurance, in a trust, or in some other manner.  This can arise where family members have become estranged; a common scenario involves remarriage of a parent, the new spouse of which does not get along with the children.

Types of Probate Proceedings

A full probate proceeding is not always necessary, even if the Decedent did not have a trust.  This blog will briefly survey the available procedures for transferring non-trust, non-joint assets of a decedent.

 -FULL PROBATE-

A full probate is necessary if the Decedent’s gross estate is valued at more than $150,000, or s/he had real property in California worth more than $50,000.  The probate process is described in detail in our 8-06-2015 blog.

TOP TEN COMMON ESTATE PLANNING MISTAKES

A will or trust can not only fail to carry out the decedent’s intent, it can actually frustrate the intended estate distribution, and cost the decedent’s loved ones significant time and money, not to mention anguish.

Particularly in an era of online-assisted do-it-yourself legal work, poorly made self-made and cookie cutter wills and trusts abound.

NO CONTEST CLAUSES – CAN I SUE?

No contest clauses, also known as in terrorem (literally, “in fear”) clauses, are a type of safeguard against will and trust challenges.  Inserted by the testator (the person who made the will) or trustmaker (aka “trustor” or “grantor”), these clauses effectively tell beneficiaries, “if you try to challenge the will/trust, you will lose your share of inheritance.

WHAT IS ESTATE PLANNING? (PART III – OTHER ESTATE PLANNING TOOLS)

As noted, wills and trusts are the most common estate planning tools, but are far from the only tools.  Depending on family dynamics, estate size and composition, a client may also want to engage the following.

FAMILY LIMITED PARTNERSHIPS AND LLC’S

For families that own significant assets such as rental property or operate small businesses can benefit from the use of entities such as family limited partnerships (FLPs) or family limited liability corporations (LLCs).  These entities provide several benefits for parents and subsequent generations.

WHAT EXACTLY IS ESTATE PLANNING? (PART II – WILLS AND TRUSTS)

WILLS

A Will is a document that sets forth how you want your property distributed upon your death.  It can be extremely specific (e.g., “I hereby give, devise and bequeath my personal residence and all personal property to my son Jerome, with the exceptions that all of my fine china shall go to my niece Jenny, and my yellow couch to my best friend Fifi.