As has been demonstrated by the ongoing dispute between Robin Williams’s widow and his surviving children from previous marriages, it is important to be careful when planning how to handle a person’s estate. Having the correct documents in place may mean using a combination of wills, trusts and other documents to fully account for all assets.
In Robin Williams’s case, he failed to specifically include or describe certain items of personal property over which his children and widow are now fighting. This demonstrates the need to thoroughly inventory all assets to make certain they are included in the estate plan.
While a will is an important tool, it may not be enough alone. A will will not cover assets that are controlled by how they are titled or by beneficiary designation. Jointly-owned property with a right of survivorship will transfer to the other person upon death, regardless of any provision to the contrary in a will. A will may not cover some property or accounts that have existing beneficiary designations, such as an individual retirement account. Setting up a trust may be helpful to cover the passing of those assets.
The preparation of a comprehensive estate plan can be a complicated process, necessitating a thorough review of assets, debts and titles to property. People may benefit in this regard by seeking the advice of an estate planning attorney in order to determine the most appropriate tools to use for their individual needs and goals. An attorney may help clients determine what assets may not be covered by a will and what other type of document may work best for passing them to intended beneficiaries. It is advisable for a person to gather account documents and prepare an inventory of assets to be reviewed by the attorney.