How to Deal with Personal Possessions in Your Will
15 August 2015
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Many people think that having a Will is a ‘simple’ matter of distributing the ‘big’ things such as your property or car, to your beneficiaries.
The legal dispute between Susan Schneider Williams, the wife of the late actor Robin Williams, and his children has highlighted the fact that is not the case at all.
Much of the dispute between Susan and the late actor’s three children focuses on Robin Williams’ formidable show business memorabilia, forged over 40 years in show business. The actor had won numerous Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes and an Oscar.
Robin Williams’ provided that his personal possessions as well as memorabilia relating to his show business life, before his marriage to Susan, should be given to his children.
However, Susan claims that, while she does not have a claim to Williams’ items relating to his show business persona, she should be entitled to personal items such as the tuxedo he wore at their wedding.
Disputes over personal possessions are, sadly, a familiar story. Although the actor had drawn up a Will, which clearly stated what the beneficiaries were meant to inherit, it did not actively resolve the issue between the family. It’s important to recognise that even though items may not be of monetary value they can of course hold significant sentimental value.
The Willams’ dispute does not only highlight the importance of dealing with your personal possessions in your Will but also the importance of considering whether further steps could have been taken at the time of writing a Will to avoid issues arising.
Where there could potentially be an argument in the family over possessions, one approach is putting a ‘letter of wishes’ in place alongside your Will. This letter would explain why you want certain people to benefit from particular items. Having an explanation in place for the family to read can go some way to diffuse conflict between members of your family and potentially avoid a large legal bill.
An alternative approach is to sit down with your loved ones during your lifetime and discuss your thoughts with them in advance. This would give them the opportunity to ask questions and perhaps indicate whether or not they would really like to receive that item.
A Will is a living representation of your wishes. It is important to get the right legal advice to ensure that ALL of your estate (property, cars and personal possessions) are distributed according to your wishes. Without taking proper advice it is easy to overlook these items or deal with them in a way that could cause issues for your loved ones after you’ve passed away.
Making a Will can be quick and easy when you receive the right guidance and especially when you have a specialist to help you complete each step from start to finish.
At Co-op Legal Services our Will writing advisors can discuss your wishes, offer guidance and help you to make a Will that’s right for you. As part of the Co-op Group, our values of openness, honesty, social responsibility and caring for others are core to the service we provide.