It has been a bit over a year since the tragic death of actor and comedian Robin Williams; however, the family has yet to settle their battle over his estate. Williams took his life in August of 2014 in his California home. The actor had a Will but his kids from a previous marriage and his current wife have been battling for a year over some of the terms contained in the Will.
Williams’ wife, Susan, petitioned the court to prevent his children from taking possession of the contents of their San Francisco Bay home. She claimed the items in the home should be excluded from the estate. William’s children responded to the petition claiming their stepmother was trying to change the terms of the trust to deprive them of their father’s personal belongings and memorabilia.
Now one year later, the parties have narrowed down the fight to about 300 items and an issue regarding a monetary distribution to Williams’ widow. In June, a judge gave the parties until July 29 to settle their differences and reach an agreement. It is not clear if the parties met that deadline yet or if they will be able to settle the dispute without court intervention.
How Can I Prevent My Family From Fighting Over My Estate?
It is difficult to know how family will react to your death. It is an emotional time for everyone and sometimes those emotions take over and leave common sense lagging behind. Most estate disputes arise when the deceased person did not take time to prepare a proper estate plan. However, as you can see from Robin Williams’ estate, even when you do have an estate plan and everything is in order, your family may still fight over your estate. You will already have departed this life when the fighting begins but just the thought of it happening is upsetting to you now.
The best way to prevent family fights over an estate is to take time now preparing your estate plan with an experienced estate planning attorney. You may also want to consult other professionals such as an accountant or a tax professional. Your attorney will help you decide if you need to consult other professionals, the documents you need to have in your estate plan, and the best way to deal with family members.
In addition to your attorney providing specific advice about how to deal with family members who want or need to know your final wishes, below are a few suggestions you may want to consider to avoid family fighting over your estate.
- Consider leaving an addendum to your Will that lists certain pieces of property that should be given to specific heirs. This reduces the risk of the family arguing over who should get grandpa’s clock on the mantle.
- Choose your executor or personal representative wisely. This is the person charged with administering your estate. You need to trust that this person can put aside emotions and feelings to carry out your final wishes. This person may need to be able to “stand up to” members of your family. You may also want to consider leaving a personal note for this person or meeting with this person to review your estate plans so he or she can hear your wishes directly from you rather than reading them on a piece of paper after your death.
- Consider using a trust agreement if you believe your family members will fight over your estate. This is not right for everyone but it is something you may want to discuss with your attorney to determine if it is right for you.
- Talk to your family members now. Some families do not like to discuss end of life decisions; however, if you address issues now and answer any questions your family may have, you may be able to avoid fighting after your death. Consider having the meeting with your attorney present so he can also answer questions.
For more information contact our office to schedule a consultation with the attorneys at Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC. Their experience and knowledge can help you have the peace of mind of knowing that you have a plan. Contact Attorney Daniel J. Krause or Nelson W. Donovan today.
Reach us through our website or call our office at (608) 268-5751 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation