10. Not Giving Enough Attention to Family Heirlooms and Tangible Property (Robin Williams)

When planning an estate, tangible personal property is often overlooked as an important component of that estate.  Disputes often arise over tangible property that is not properly referenced or handled in the estate plan.  These disputes are magnified in estates where the value (both sentimental and financial) of the tangible property is significant.

Following the death of Robin Williams, his widow and his three children fought over the late actor’s estimated $50 million dollar estate. One issue was the meaning of the terms “jewelry,” “memorabilia,” and “collectibles”. For example, did Robin Williams’ collection of expensive watches count as “jewelry” or “collectibles”?

The problem with Robin Williams' estate plan

The answer would determine how those watches would be inherited.  What about furniture and items located in the Tiburon house? Did these items flow with the house to the late actor’s wife, or were they considered part of the tangible property left to his children? The estate plan was vague on these points and that lack of clarity caused friction and led to court intervention.

The moral of the story is that careful attention should also be given to planning for the tangible property.

How long has it been since you reviewed your estate plan with an attorney?

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