By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A will tells people how to divide your property. But how do you tell them why you divided as you did?
As if the death of actor Robin Williams weren’t heartbreaking enough, comes news that his children and his widow are fighting over some of his property. Williams probably thought that his will was self-explanatory, but that turns out not to be exactly true; for example, he left his jewelry to his kids, but his widow says that he didn’t mean watches too.
A will is a legal document that generally explains in legalese who gets what but often doesn’t adequately tell loved ones left behind why the person is being left something.
In addition to leaving a will, you can leave an explanatory letter where you tell people reading the will why you made certain choices – why a certain piece of personal property is going to one family member over another.
You need to be clear in the letter that it’s an expression of sentiment and not a will and if there’s a contradiction then the will governs. But if you say: I’m leaving you the watch so you can remember our time together, it would help let the others know why they don’t get it and may avoid a fight over what you really meant.