Robin Williams: What happens when you aren’t precise in your Will language?

By AnnMichelle G. Hart, Esq.
December 1, 2021

Hi, I’m Ann Hart, HartLaw PLLC. I’m an estate planning attorney in Washington State. Here’s an example of unintentional imprecise language: 

Robin Williams died in 2015 survived by his wife Susan Schneider William, and his 3 adult children from a previous marriage. 

Williams left the majority of his estate to his three children. The house he left to his wife. He also included provisions in the Will that his wife should receive enough money to maintain the home during her lifetime. 

Sounds pretty clear, right? So what went wrong? 

Well even celebrities get things wrong. The Will stated that the Children were to get his personal belongings. The Children asserted Williams intended to included all of his personal items in the house. The Wife asserted that Williams gave her the entire house which included all of the contents. 

The fight was on! The Children filed suit against the Wife, and each side had their own set of attorneys. The final battle line was drawn over 300 personal items in dispute that were in the house. The court decided the final a resolution and disbursement of the items. We don’t know what the final outcome was because that mediated agreement was sealed, but we do know the case was resolved eventually. 

Even with the best estate planning, there may be cases where families are in dispute over the terms and provisions of the Will. When this happens, probate litigation is not only expensive and time-consuming but it is emotionally devastating. Families are dealing with the division that probate litigation causes, in addition to the pain of losing a loved one. 

It’s not always possible to avoid family disputes but a good estate planning attorney like me will see the possible pain points and walk you through resolving them now rather than have your family fight over the issue through time-consuming and costly litigation later. 

To ensure you have the most precise language possible in your estate plan, call me Ann Hart, HartLaw PLLC – Your attorney with heart.