Robin Williams’s recent death shocked and saddened the nation. The beloved actor and comedian, whose movies included Dead Poet’s Society, Jumanji, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Good Will Hunting, was 63.
He is survived by his wife and three children, who have told the media that they are heartbroken by their loss.
Fortunately, recent news reports that Williams likely left his family with little in the way of estate planning troubles. Unlike other celebrities who passed away with incomplete estate plans (e.g. James Gandolfini and Philip Seymour Hoffman), Williams planned to care for his family in the future.
According to CNBC, the actor at one point created a trust for his three children. Not wanting his children to be spoiled by inheriting a large amount of money at once, the trust reportedly was structured to give his children their inheritance in increments, at age 21, 25, and 30.
Estate planning lawyers have noted that setting up a trust is often very beneficial: it’s private (which is particularly important for celebrities), it avoids a lengthy and expensive probate process, and it is more customizable than a last will and testament. A trust can also protect heirs from losing the money in a divorce or lawsuit.
Still, Williams’s trust could have been structured more effectively. Depending on the size of his estate, which has been estimated between $29.9 and 50 million, his children could potentially receive millions on their 21st birthday: this could be too much for them to handle responsibly.
Williams’s publicist has said that the trust is no longer a part of his estate plan, however. It remains to be seen what his estate plan really looks like.
If you haven’t set up an estate plan to provide for your family, now is the time to start. Take a page from Robin Williams’s book and talk to an estate planning attorney about the best options for you.