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Smart planning: Robin Williams' estate will likely avoid probate

For many people, keeping family matters private is a major concern. What some people might not realize is that handling your estate plan using only a will is one way that your family will lose privacy when the estate is settled. This is because wills go through probate court and are made a matter of public record. If the will is contested, those proceedings are made public as well.

Michigan residents might be interested in learning how Robin Williams handled his estate planning because his family will likely be able to enjoy privacy instead of having every step of the estate division being made public through probate. In order to accomplish some level of privacy, Williams used a revocable trust for the primary portion of his estate.

A revocable trust enables you to control who gets access to which assets and when they get them. This tool offers you the flexibility to change the plan when necessary without having to go through the same steps as you would if you had a will. For some, revocable wills are a way to minimize complications and arguments between family members. They might also be a way to reduce the tax liability the family faces when they settle the estate.

A revocable trust doesn't come without some caveats. If you opt to use a revocable trust, you have to ensure that the assets listed in the trust are transferred to the trust's name or else the trust is worthless. Also, you might incur more costs upfront with a revocable trust than with a will. These caveats serve a reminder that understanding your options for estate planning is vital as you try to make asset division after your death easier for your family members.

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

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