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Revocable trust saves actor's estate from public scrutiny

New York residents who are looking to update an estate plan may be interested in how one deceased Hollywood star handled it. Through the use of one type of trust, the actor was able to sidestep the very public probate process.

When actor Robin Williams passed away, reports indicate that his estate plan avoided some common mistakes that many with significant assets often make. One estate issue is the public probate process. A will is probated through the courts and thus becomes public record. This allows anyone to see what assets were distributed and to whom. Williams reportedly used a revocable trust, at least for a portion of his estate planning. This allows a settlor to leave instructions to a trustee for distributing the assets in the trust. The revocable trust avoids probate, thus keeping those details of the estate out of the public eye.

A revocable trust often does cost more to prepare than a will, but it has many benefits in addition to the privacy aspect. A revocable trust is flexible, meaning that changes can be made throughout a person's lifetime as family circumstances change. The named trustee can be an attorney, financial adviser or other professional who can be tasked with handling the financial matters related to the estate. The trust can also prevent minor children who inherit the money from abusing it before or after they become adults.

Understanding all of the aspects of comprehensive estate planning can be difficult without assistance. An attorney may be able to help by examining a person's finances and inheritance goals and drafting the appropriate documents. This may help the person avoid the probate process and minimize the future tax burden on their heirs.

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

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

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