Like most people, when you think about estate planning you think about deciding who will receive the most valuable assets you own – your home, a retirement account, an investment account, or maybe a family business. Without a doubt, it is important to plan for the disposition of those assets; however, it is often just as important to decide who gets the sentimental assets in your estate plan. To understand why, consider the fate of a single tuxedo that was part of the estate of actor and comedian Robbin Williams.
It may sound ludicrous to end up in court over ownership of a tuxedo but that is precisely what is happening with the estate of Robin Williams. The beloved comedian committed suicide last August after battling depression for many years. Williams was survived by his third wife, Susan Schneider, and his three grown children, one from his first marriage and two from his second marriage. The potential for conflict between a subsequent spouse and children from a first marriage is a well-known pothole along the road to a successful estate plan. Williams apparently consider the possibility when he created his estate plan as well and thought he resolved the potential problem. Williams left his primary home and all the contents inside the home to Schneider. He then left all his clothing, jewelry and personal items that he had amassed before his third marriage to his children. The conflict arose when both sides laid claim to the tuxedo Williams wore at his wedding to Schneider. Schneider claimed it was to go to her as it was hanging in the home at the time of Williams’ death while the children claim it belongs to them on the basis that it was owned by Williams prior to the marriage. Despite what Williams undoubtedly believed was a solid estate plan, his loved ones are now in court battling it out over something that would normally have little, if any, value. Of course, Williams’ fame may mean that the tuxedo does have a significant monetary value; however, the parties are not battling it out because of any monetary value the item has. Instead, it is the sentimental value the tuxedo has to everyone involved that pushed them to litigating the issue.
When you sit down to create your estate plan, make sure you address the sentimental, seemingly invaluable items, as well as the big ticket items. As the Williams estate illustrates, failing to do so could result in your loved ones wasting a considerable amount of time and money in court only to let a judge decide who gets things that may have been important to you as well.
If you have additional questions or concerns about your estate plan, contact the experienced South Carolina estate planning attorneys at Kuhn & Kuhn Law Firm by calling 843-577-3700 to schedule your appointment.