By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Robin Williams probably thought he’d put his estate in order before he died. Instead, fighting over his estate has gotten ugly because. while he was clear in setting out who, between his children and his current wife, would get what, some of the terms he used were generic.
Was, for example, his watch collection part of the tangible property he left for his wife or was it to be considered jewelry that he’d left to his children?
And while that unhappy battle will play out in the court system, if you have children by someone other than your current spouse, estate law experts and planners suggest something called a QTIP, a Qualified Terminable Interest Property Trust, which provides for the surviving spouse for the rest of her life, but the ultimate ownership of the property is retained by the trust so when the surviving spouse passes away, the assets ultimately go to the children and not to the spouse’s heirs.
That tends to prevent the Robin Williams’ type of fighting because it takes care of the spouse while she’s alive without giving away the value of the property due to the kids, and no one has to get an earful on who should or should not get to keep what.