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Haunting Estate Planning Oddities: The Fight for the Rainbow Suspenders

For the Halloween episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp engage in a spirited discussion of the horrors some folks have visited upon their families' finances from the afterlife by making big mistakes in estate planning.

In this segment, they discuss the sad case of comic genius Robin Williams, who actually did an excellent job of estate planning in most respects. But when it came to items like the contents of his home -- clothes, art, memorabilia, and the like -- he left his wishes unclear.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Oct. 31, 2017.

Alison Southwick: Tomb raiders greedily steal the rainbow suspenders and fail to heed the curse of the mummy. These aren't bad. These aren't that bad. They're not all great, but they're not all gems.

Robert Brokamp: Well, when you think rainbow suspenders, who do you think of?

Southwick: Robin Williams.

Brokamp: Robin Williams, who died in 2014 while living with his third wife and her two kids. Now he actually had a very solid estate plan. Most of it went to his three kids from previous marriages; however [his then-current wife and kids] were allowed to stay in [his house] and receive some money for its maintenance for as long as they wanted. Once they were gone, the house would go to his other kids.

The question was what happens to the stuff inside the house? That's where the debate came from, or at least the more interesting debate. What happens to things like furniture? Artwork? The rainbow suspenders?

The kids and the wife actually had to go to court to decide not only [how much] it cost to maintain the house, but what happens to all these things, including bikes, watches, and Robin Williams' slippers and underwear.

In the end, they settled. People are, I think, generally happy. Most of those personal effects go to the kids, but the wife was able to keep some of the things that were important to her. Things that she even said were wedding gifts but that the kids said were actually memorabilia attributed to Robin Williams, so they're ours.

Southwick: When you die you never want the conversations to be about your underwear.

Brokamp: That's true.

Southwick: You just never want that to come up.

Brokamp: Right. So the lesson, here, is when most people think of estate planning, they think of their accounts, and their life insurance, and their house. Property like that. But there are a lot of other items, things that you have that may not have much monetary value. They might have more sentimental value. But being specific, as much as possible, you probably don't want to say too much about your underwear, but maybe. I don't know. Who knows, as we can see people do fight about it. But as much as possible be specific about who gets things that you may not think are worth a lot of money, but people might fight over.

Southwick: Don't will me your underwear, Bro. Or Rick.

Brokamp: Rick's already getting that. What am I wearing today?

Southwick: The haunted underpants!

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