Robin Williams set good example with his estate planning forethought

Robin Williams’ heirs likely have been spared a financial headache thanks to his careful estate planning.

As upsetting as they can be, sometimes celebrity tragedies have a silver lining in that they can help impart important lessons. The recent loss of beloved comic and actor Robin Williams has raised awareness about the heavy toll of substance abuse and depression.

But Williams' death also sheds light on another critical issue: the importance of proper estate planning. Unlike many celebrities who leave a tangled financial mess for their heirs to inherit, it seems Williams put in place an estate plan that should help ensure his surviving loved ones get to enjoy the fruits of his years of iconic roles in the manner that he saw fit.

Williams used trusts to help preserve privacy, avoid probate and reduce taxes

The specifics of Robin Williams' estate plan are not known, and likely that is the way he wanted it. Reportedly, Williams' utilized at least one revocable trust, otherwise known as a living trust, to handle the bulk of his estate planning needs.

One of the many potential benefits of using trusts in estate planning is that revocable trusts can arrange for the disposition of assets after death without involving the probate process. There are a number of reasons that avoiding probate can be beneficial, not least among them that when a probate court scrutinizes the terms of a will, courtroom records can become publically available information. For celebrities or other individuals who value privacy, putting in place a living trust in lieu of a will can be a great way to keep personal matters out of the public spotlight.

While revocable trusts are probably the most widely used type of trust for most estate planning needs - as its name implies, a revocable trust can be changed or dissolved by its creator at will - irrevocable trusts have certain benefits too. Irrevocable trusts cannot generally be changed without a court order, even by their creator during his or her lifetime.

However, irrevocable trusts might help greatly reduce taxes and are ideal for certain unique circumstances, such as planning for the long term support of a disabled loved one. Robin Williams owned a pair of houses valued at around $25 million at the time of his death that were held in a trust, and it is likely that this trust was an irrevocable trust created with tax considerations in mind.

Talk to an attorney about your estate planning needs

Your estate probably is not as large and complex as that of Robin Williams. But even in his death, Williams provided a good example of the hassle and expense that we can all save our loved ones by taking some time to make an estate plan.

Whether a will, trust or some combination of the two is best for your individual estate planning needs, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you decide on an estate plan that works for you. Contact an estate planning attorney today to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of and your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

Keywords: Robin Williams, estate planning, trust