Robin Williams Estate Squabble: How to Avoid Family Fights after You Die

Recent news stories relate that the widow and children of Robin Williams are fighting over his estate. Phoenix estate planning attorney Amie Mendoza discusses the Williams estate struggles in this report.

Amie Mendoza

Amie Mendoza

Mendoza explains that Robin Williams had an estate plan. However, the documentation was not clear as to some of his assets. The plan did not make clear who should get some of his memorabilia or who should receive his home. Now, Williams’s new spouse and his children are having a court fight over the right to inherit these assets.

Mendoza points out that none of this would have happened if only Williams had kept in touch with his estate planning attorney and arranged to have the plan updated as needed to take account of assets acquired after the initial plan was created. Mendoza says that it is a fairly common occurrence for someone to get an estate plan prepared and executed and then to put the plan on a shelf and never look at it again. This is obviously a mistake. Mendoza cautions that anyone who has an estate plan should revisit and reexamine it periodically, at least every three years, to make sure that it is still correct, up-to-date, and that it distributes the estate as it should be done.

Mendoza says that getting your estate plan in order is much like getting your body in shape. It’s easy to put off, but it needs to be done.  Everyone will die sooner or later, and the time to get your affairs in order is while you are still here to make the proper arrangements.

The things to learn from the Robin Williams situation, says Mendoza, are the importance of keeping your estate plan up to date and of having an attorney you can work with to get the job done. You also need to find an attorney who won’t charge you every time you have a conversation. “Laws change, and your assets change. Those things need to be taken into consideration when you’re updating your plan.”

Tax planning is also something to keep in mind, especially for larger estates. There are things that can be done to minimize the amount of tax that will be imposed on an estate, reducing the amount that is passed on to heirs.

Amie Mendoza practices law at the Law Offices of Amie Mendoza PLLC, Phoenix, Arizona.  She is a seasoned professional with a background of over 12 years as a leader in the technology field. During her tenure as a technologist, Amie was able to successfully negotiate numerous multi-million dollar contracts. This has given her a unique perspective on advocating for her clients in their legal matters, no matter the type. She is a family business lawyer, helping entrepreneurs start and run their businesses. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.