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Actor used trusts in his estate planning

Many individuals sometimes make the mistake of relying solely on wills or not doing estate planning at all. Wills are subject to probate and therefore the attendant public scrutiny of court documents. By setting up a revocable trust, actor and California resident Robin Williams prevented his family from having to deal with probate, which can be a long and unpleasant process. The terms of trusts can be kept private as well as any challenges or disagreements.

Williams had at least one revocable trust upon which he based most of his estate planning. Since he had been married three times and had children with more than one woman it was a wise decision to set up a trust. A revocable trust makes it easy for people to alter the terms, such as in the event of a new child being born and thus getting a share of his or her parent's estate. Wills can be changed, but it is less complicated to alter trusts.

A trust also gives people control over how their assets are to be used. Wills only say who gets what in the event of someone's death but offers no additional control. By setting up a trust, parents can decide at what age their children receive their inheritance or choose to only give a portion of assets at different times. Trusts also require trustees to watch over the assets. A trustee could offer advice to beneficiaries for managing their inheritance, which might lead to better financial decisions.

Creating a will could still be part of an individual's estate planning, but trusts offer many benefits that Californians should consider. An estate planning attorney could work with people to establish trusts, create wills and fill out all the appropriate paperwork to avoid probate and make the process run more smoothly.

Source: Daily Finance, "Robin Williams' Estate Plan Spares His Heirs a Lot of Drama", Dan Caplinger, August 14, 2014

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