Opinion

The lesson behind Robin Williams' will

Is the spat over Robin Williams' will the fault of wife or children? More likely, the lawyers

What does the legal spat between Robin Williams’ widow and his children show? Is it the product of a gold-digging wife of only a few years? Greedy children who are only too willing to define almost every belonging of his as memorabilia?

Or perhaps just an honest dispute over items of possible sentimental and monetary value?

More than anything else, it probably means that there’s no such thing as a will that is too carefully written.  (Especially when the person is so famous that almost every belonging carries value in the marketplace.) Maybe we all like to believe that our families would never engage in arguments, either large or petty, after our deaths.

Time for a beliefs adjustment. It’s not just an issue of greed or belief that one is being shortchanged of a legitimate share of an inheritance. The disposal of estates are caught up in emotional issues of which survivor had the deceased’s love, and wishful interpretations of what a loved one intended.

That’s probably all the more true in the case of a beloved and talented man whose suicide was seen as tragic evidence of a life beset by depression that was worsened by a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. It’s possible that his family members are motivated by greed, but they also might be trying to divine the thinking of a man whose last thoughts were the anguished and private ones of someone who saw little benefit in going on. For a man who denied himself a future, what future did he foresee for others?

Similar kinds of issues come up for many families, but the Williams estate, with the value attached to seemingly valueless items and the difficult circumstances of his later life and his death, was almost sure to bring about disagreement.

If there is a failure here, it was with Williams’ lawyers who appear to have written an unclear will. And for those of us who think the Williams family is the great litigious exception to the rule, and our families would do so much better in such circumstances — think again. Aside from love given during life, the gift of clarity might be the best thing we can leave behind.

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