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Robin Williams' Wife Dishonors His Trust Through Court Battle

When Robin Williams tragically committed suicide six months ago, he left behind three children from his first two marriages (ages 23 to 31) and a widow of less than three years, Susan Schneider Williams. Unlike many celebrities, Robin Williams took the time to create thoughtful and detailed estate plan, including various trusts to benefit both Susan and his three children. The trust established for his wife, called the Susan Trust, referred to and was consistent with a prenuptial agreement the couple signed in 2011 when they were married.  Robin-and-Susan-Williams

Because Robin Williams' estate plan was carefully crafted, it initially appeared that his heirs would avoid the bitter family squabbles that affect many mixed-marriage families (in Hollywood and around the country). After all, it is his wishes that matter, and because those wishes were seemingly captured through the proper estate planning documents, there should be nothing left to fight about, right?

Not so fast. Within the past 24 hours, the news broke that the Williams family will not be so lucky. Susan, through her lawyers, started legal proceedings just a few days before Christmas. She asked a probate court in California to take jurisdiction over the Robin Williams Trust to interpret various provisions that she feels are in dispute. Robin's three children -- themselves coming from two different marriages -- filed a unified response through their attorneys and opposed Susan's court filing. The battle is on.

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Joan Rivers' Estate Planning Was No Laughing Matter

Joan Rivers was widely respected for her sense of humor, work ethic, and willingness to say almost anything for a laugh.  When it came to planning her estate, however, the late comedienne and host of Fashion Police treated the matter very seriously.  Joan-rivers 2

Joan Rivers' last will and testament was signed on November 16, 2011.  A thorough and well-drafted legal document, her will named a living trust as her beneficiary.

Specifically, Joan Rivers, whose full legal name was Joan R. Rosenberg, signed the Rosenberg Family Trust on the same day as the will.  The will directed that all of her estate assets were to be distributed to that trust.

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Top 10 Celebrity Stories To Spark Holiday Estate Planning Conversations

Sure the holidays are a fun time for families to sit around talking about what happened on the latest episode of The Walking Dead or how granddaughter Mary is doing in dance class.  But they are also a great time to have the important -- yet often difficult -- conversations about estate planning.  What happens when Mom dies?  Does anyone know where Dad kept his will?  Did they ever transfer the investment accounts into their revocable living trust like they were supposed to?   Walking dead

Many families don't ask these tough questions ... especially when dynamics are strained, like in many second-marriage families or when siblings don't get along well.  It certainly isn't easy to blurt out after passing the gravy, "Hey Dad, does your will put me or your wife in charge of your estate?"

But these conversations are important.  When the proper estate planning isn't done, it's the family members left behind who pay the price, often with bitter, ugly, and costly probate court battles.  They happen to families all across the country on a daily basis, from those of modest wealth to the very rich.

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Using Celebrity Stories Is A Great Way To Bring Up Estate Planning

MarketWatch.com recently featured an interesting article about the benefits that families gain by having the estate planning conversation early.  Not only does it improve family relationships, it helps sets the stage and prepares family members for facing the difficult issues caused by a loved one who ages or passes away.    Trial and Heirs cover 2nd-edition

The article noted how a UBS Wealth Management study recently found that only 43% of affluent Americans felt that having this conversation with their heirs was a pressing issue.  That’s surprising because experts predict that between now and the year 2050, the largest wealth transfer in U.S. history will occur:  a whopping 30 trillion dollars.

The problem is that having this conversation is seldom easy.  Who wants to sit around talking about legal and financial planning for when someone dies or becomes incapacitated?  Most family members are too busy with the stress of their daily work and personal routines to worry about talking to loved ones about death and dying.

While the MarketWatch article includes a couple suggestions, there is one more that we are huge proponents of:  using celebrity stories.  Instead of awkwardly beginning the conversation by asking your loved ones to consider what will happen when you pass away, why not bring up Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Princess Diana, or even Elvis?  These are all celebrities we have recently written about here at Trial & Heirs.

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Dispute Over Where To Bury Casey Kasem Teaches Lesson

The famed American Top 40 Countdown DJ passed away in June, at age 82, with a host of medical problems including advanced Lewy Body dementia.  Now, almost four months later, Casey Kasem’s remains still have not been laid to rest.  Casey and Jean Kasem

It’s a tragic story of a feuding family.  And unfortunately, it’s one that won’t likely end any time soon.

Kasem’s wife of more than 30 years, Jean Kasem, wasn’t exactly close with his three adult children from his first marriage.  In fact, Casey’s daughter Kerri Kasem recently said in an interview with Howard Stern that Jean Kasem didn’t like her or her siblings since the time that Kerri was just nine years old.   According to Kerri, Jean would even invent bad deeds that she told Casey the children had done so he would be mad at them.

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Tom Clancy Estate In Family Fight Due To Poor Estate Planning

Anyone who knows who CIA analyst Jack Ryan is likely appreciates the work of late author Tom Clancy.  Called the "father of the techno-thriller," Clancy's career took off with his first novel, The Hunt for Red October.  His career -- spawning movies such as Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger -- led to more than 100 million copies of his novels in print, with 17 books hitting the top spot on the New York Times best-seller list.  Tom Clancy

Tom Clancy passed away on October 1, 2013 from heart failure, at age 66.  He was survived by his widow, Alexandra Clancy, and their young daughter, as well as four adult children from his first marriage.

The Tom Clancy Estate has been valued, based on probate court filings, at $82 million.  It includes a $65 million ownership stake in the Baltimore Orioles, a rare, working World War II tank, a $7 million mansion overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, and more than $10 million in business interests based on his works.

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As Prince Harry Inherits From Diana's Estate, Troubling Questions Remain

Prince Harry celebrated his 30th birthday earlier this week. His mother, the iconic Princess Diana, passed away over 17 years ago, following the tragic crash as Diana and Dodi Fayed sped away from paparazzi in France.  What was so special about Harry’s 30th birthday (other than the fact that he’s still single, to the delight of eligible women throughout England)?  That’s the day Harry became entitled to receive the remaining half of Princess Diana’s assets.   Prince Harry

After Diana passed on August 31, 1997, her mother, Frances Ruth Shand Kydd, and her sister, Lady Elizabeth Sarah Lavinia McCorquodale, became executors of her Estate, based on Diana’s last will and testament dated June 1, 1993 (amended through a codicil in 1996).  The probate filings at the time showed that Diana left behind assets valued at around £21 million (or worth about 31.5 million in USD at the time), netting £17 million after inheritance taxes.  Originally, the will called for these assets to be held in trust for Diana’s sons, Princes William and Harry, until they turned 25.

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