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Family of Robin Williams at odds over estate planning

Many Texas residents are familiar with the work of  comedian and actor Robin Williams. When Williams died late last year, he did so having put together an estate planning package that he believed would address the distribution of his estate between his intended heirs. While it appears that the more significant assets were handled through the use of various trusts, his surviving family members are currently embroiled in a struggle over many of his personal belongings.

When considering estate planning options, most individuals focus exclusively over the assets that hold the highest value, such as savings and real estate. However, family members are often more concerned over items that may hold lesser financial worth, but are extremely rich in sentimental value. Simply assuming that one's heirs will work these matters out among themselves is not always a wise decision. A better approach is to carefully designate which items are to pass to each individual.

One way to accomplish this goal is to sit down with loved ones and ask if there are any particular items that they would like to keep once the time comes. If there are multiple heirs who ask for the same items, there can be a discussion about which belongings should be passed on to each. Often, heirs can negotiate the distribution of personal belongings well in advance of having to distribute those possessions, and in an environment that is not as emotionally charged as that following a loved ones death.

Once the decisions have been made, the next step is to draft a document that clearly outlines the items in question, and designates the chosen heirs. Having this list included within the overall estate planning package is an excellent way for Texas residents to help avoid contention following a divorce. For the Williams' family, the distribution of his fossil collection, bicycles, graphic novels and clothing could end up going before a court.  

Source: TIME, "3 Things We Can Learn From Robin Williams' Estate Battle", Kerri Ann Renzulli, Feb. 4, 2015

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