Cynthia Crofoot Rignanese, Esquire
Thinking Globally, Practicing Locally in Central Florida Since 1990

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Good Morning Vietnam - Why Robin Williams May Inspire More Than A Comedic Response

The rich and famous have access to the best lawyers in the country, so it always comes as a surprise when celebrities end up having defective, non-existent or antiquated estate plans. 

As our lives change, so do our estate planning needs. The natural course of life brings others in and out of our circles, and an individual estate plan needs to stay on pace with those life events and changes. A robust estate plan takes into account foreseeable changes in order to keep the plan working when life throws you a curve ball. However, part of dealing with a major life event is reevaluating your estate plan to ensure it is working optimally for the future.

When Comedian/Actor Robin Williams passed away in 2014, he was survived by his three children. Williams’ estate plan included a trust for the children, in effort to make sure that what he left for them and other sensitive information remained private. 

However, a failure to update the estate plan led to unintended consequences. Before Williams died, one of the co-trustees named in the trust document had already passed, leaving Williams as the sole trustee. Williams’ passing left the trust in limbo, as no living successor trustee was named to take his place. When a trust has no trustee, the court is left to appoint a new trustee they see fit to manage the assets owned by the trust. As a result, the trust became public and Williams’ children were not afforded the privacy that was so important to the actor.

This situation could have been easily avoided! With a call and quick meeting with his lawyer, Williams could have updated his trust with an ‘amendment’ naming a new co-trustee.  I recommend to clients that their estate plan be updated at the earlier of three years, the event of a death of anyone named in the plan, or upon a major change in circumstances including finances. Too many people do not access their estate planning lawyer regularly enough and it creates potential problems like Williams’ estate.

Keep in mind that a variety of life events–not just the death of a loved one–can bring about the need for an estate plan update. Whether you are buying a new house, growing your family, starting a business, or filing for a patent, your estate plan works best when it is up to date.

It is best to meet with Rignanese & Associates so that we can guide you in establishing and maintaining your estate plan. Let us help you save time, trouble and money by doing a proper estate plan. 

Rignanese & Associates is available to work with clients on their unique estate plan. Please reach out to us at our new headquarters at 203 Avenue A, NW, Suite, 101, Winter Haven, Florida 33881 at 863.294.1114.

Cynthia Rignanese