Most people think of an estate plan as just a way to specify end-of-life wishes and divvy up personal possessions among heirs. These are both important functions, but a well-written estate plan does more than that. Notably, it can reduce the chances that family and loved ones will end up in a dispute over inheritance rights.
Sadly, the estates of celebrities often become the subjects of legal battles between family members. And things can be especially contentious in cases involving step-relatives. The ongoing dispute over the estate of Robin Williams appears to be an apt example.
The beloved comedian died just over a year ago under tragic and sudden circumstances. Although Williams had a fairly thorough estate plan in place, there apparently were some details open to interpretation. Since his death, Williams' three (now-grown) children have been in disputes with his third wife, Susan, whom he married in 2011.
According to news sources, Williams specified that "jewelry, memorabilia and other items" should be left to his children. But in December 2014, Susan Williams filed a petition to exclude at least some of those items that were in their shared home. Recently, Williams' children have alleged that Susan is attempting to increase her share of the estate at their expense and against the intentions stated in their father's estate plan.
Although it is fairly common for celebrity estates to be disputed in court, in-fighting can happen to any family. In order to prevent this (or at least reduce the risk), it is important to make your estate plan as clear and thorough as it can be, and to discuss your intentions with family members, if possible.
Source: USA Today, "Williams' kids ask judge to toss wife's case," Aug. 19, 2015