Robin Williams & Your Estate Plan

Robin Williams NJ Estate Planning
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Robin Williams & Your Estate Plan

The brilliant comedian and actor Robin Williams took his own life in mid-August. While the details of his current estate plan are not public, there are some clear indications that Mr.Williams took efforts to financially protect his heirs.

Although he brought laughter and entertainment to a worldwide audience, Mr. Williams suffered from lifelong depression that sometimes manifested in addictive behavior. According to media reports, Mr. Williams, at 63-years old, was recently diagnosed as suffering from early stage Parkinson’s disease. In spite of these personal difficulties, Mr.Williams had an enduring career as a hard-working and successful performer.

After accumulating a significant estate, Mr. Williams saw his fortunes ebb in the wake of two divorces and a third marriage. At the time of his death, the assets of Mr.Williams’s estate likely include:

  • A 653-acre property in Napa Valley, California valued at approximately $29.9 million
  • Residential property in Tiburon, California valued at roughly $6 million
  • Proceeds of insurance and other investment funds
  • Licensing and royalties from future use of his likeness and lifetime of work

The net worth of Mr. Williams is estimated at around $50 million. Even given debt and mortgage, his heirs stand to inherit millions of dollars.

Early media efforts uncovered two trusts, dated in 1989 and 2009, set up for his children. The older trust was created for the benefit of the oldest son of Mr. Williams, Zachary, now 31 years of age. The second trust names Zachary and his two siblings, Zelda, age 25, and Cody, age 22. Provisions of the trust call for structured distributions to the children at 21, 25 and 30 years of age.

Naming structured distribution dates, as Mr. Williams did with the second trust, could potentially imperil the financial largesse intended for each child. Trusts of this nature do not account for the maturity and lifestyle of the child at the time of impending distribution. The inheritance could also be threatened by a pending lawsuit or divorce that occurs when a trust distribution comes due.

News of these trusts gives insight into the concern Mr.Williams had for his children. Recently, a spokesperson for the family indicated the two trusts are not part of his current estate plan.  There are also reports that Mr. Williams used a revocable trust to keep his heirs out of court.

As a relatively sophisticated estate planner, Mr. Williamsundoubtedly created trust documents to carry his estate forward. Unlike the two older trusts, hopefully the valid estate plan of Mr. Williams will not be splashed across the Internet—and will serve to protect his family financially in the manner he intended.

If you have questions about creating a will, trust or estate plan in Union or Hunterdon County, email Alec Borenstein, Esq., a partner with the firm, at alec@bmcestateplanning.com or call 908-236-6457.

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