Robin Williams’ Estate a Lesson In Good Planning

August 22, 2014

Late Actor Robin Williams Took Measures to Help His Children Inherit Responsibly

Robin Williams was a beloved comedian, actor and entertainer who won over legions of fans by bringing some of the most eccentric characters to life, including Mork from Ork, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Peter Pan. Media outlets describe Williams as a deeply compassionate person, always helping to make his fellow actors feel at home on the set and lifting the spirits of friends through humor, including his former college roommate Christopher Reeve after his debilitating accident.

His fans will miss him dearly, but like most famous talents, those closest to him, including his three children Cody (22), Zelda (25) and Zachary (31), will likely feel the most profound loss from his passing. Williams expressed his love for his children and their positive impact on his life in many interviews. According to documents obtained by TMZ, he also took care to ensure his children came into their inheritance responsibly.

The documents obtained show that, at one point, Williams established a trust in which each of his children received one-third of their share of the principal at the age of 21, half at 25, and their full share at 30. Though Williams’ publicist has since stated that these documents are outdated, they still serve us in bringing to mind important questions many affluent families contend with: how and when to distribute assets to their beneficiaries.

Williams chose to provide his children with their inheritance during his life. Families that decide to follow this path can help provide financial guidance and impart wisdom to their children to encourage thoughtful decision-making with the money gifted to them. Doing so also allows benefactors to enjoy the rewards of seeing what opportunities these gifts make possible. And, not to be forgotten, there can be significant tax advantages to making gifts in your lifetime. Even so, creating a trust that distributes money to beneficiaries before one’s death isn’t always preferred or feasible, especially if the assets are needed in your lifetime. Every family is different.

Like Williams, you may decide that the best option for your family is to set up staggered payments based on a beneficiary’s age. This approach has its upsides, including the chance to help protect children from making one poor decision with financially permanent consequences. No matter what distribution scenario you choose to define in a trust, leaving money without providing the proper education for its conscientious use is never a good idea.

If you are interested in knowing more about different ways to set up a trust or if you have established one for your heirs but haven’t reviewed it recently, make time to attend to this important task. Divorces, the arrival of children and grandchildren, a beneficiary’s readiness for financial responsibility, and shifts in your own financial position all signal important times to review your plan and ensure it best meets your family’s needs. Talley and Company can help.

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