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Following Up: Robin Williams


The dispute appears to center over personal items. Undoubtedly, some of the personal items are worth a lot of money. However, some probably are not worth all that much, but have sentimental value.

Sometimes, the dispute is not about the worth of the items or about the sentimental value, but rather, just a dispute because people do not like each other. I want to emphasize that I have no idea what is occurring in this situation.

As an estate planning attorney, I caution my clients that it is the little things that can create big issues. Frequently, the client will attempt to assure me that everyone gets along and that they will work it out. I explain to my clients that things are not always the way they seem especially in second marriage and/or blended family situations. In the Williams case, his widow was his third wife, and his children are from his first two wives.

The article states that “[a]bout 300 items, including books, bicycles, some artwork and watches, are still a matter of contention.” generally speaking estate planning documents provide that the executor or successor trustee is in charge of distributing personal items that have not been specifically devised. He or she has a fiduciary duty to uphold the terms of the will or trust.

Obviously, some items may not have much monetary value, but do hold sentimental value. It is ideal for the person making the will or trust to provide a specific mechanism for the successor trustee or executor to utilize to determine the distribution of these types of items.

It is relatively easy to avoid most of these types of disputes. It does require an acknowledgment by the testator that there could be trouble otherwise.

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