What the Death of Robin Williams Can Teach Us

By all accounts, Robin Williams had his estate plan zipped-up. He had a will and trust and even named professional trustees, so why is the family at odds over things after his death?

Grief impacts everyone very differently. As a suicide, it’s not just sudden but the nature of the death can complicate the grieving process.

From the latest reports, there is disagreement about how items are defined. A colleague of mine who is a professional appraiser has shared how contentious items with personal meaning but little value can wreak on a family. She commented that it’s interesting that so many parents who raised kids that argued over the last cookie expect their adult children to behave any better when it comes to settling their estate.

photo credit: nbc.com


It seems Robin Williams put immense thought into his plan, but it sounds like there is some ambiguity and now both his wife and children who are still grieving are arguing over his things.

What Robin Williams Can Teach Us: It’s not enough to create the perfect estate plan. You have to tell those people who are impacted about your plan. Make it a part of normal conversations and allow your loved ones to ask questions and understand your wishes. You might not be around to appreciate it, but they will.

Will you Wash my Underwear?

split topMy mother has bestowed on me her ultimate trust by handing over the bread bag she had filled with her dirty underwear. The event is both devastating and rewarding at the same time.

A year ago, my Mom would have at least one thing she said on each visit that was nonsensical but hit my funny bone. I’m now hearing clusters of conversations that don’t make sense and it’s not so funny anymore. I recognize the significance of these changes and wonder how long it will be until we can’t have even our limited conversations.

My mom and I walk into her bedroom to connect a new phone. As we are talking my Mom notices me looking at a bread bag near the dresser. Not only is it oddly shaped, food in the bedroom is something that was never tolerated by my mother so it immediately drew my attention. She tells me it’s her dirty underwear.

I know that my Mom has been hand-washing it for several months now. I previously shared the story about my Mom’s complaint that someone was stealing her underwear — she had just hidden them from the Assisted Living staff that would pick up and do her laundry. My Mom had forgotten she hid them all under her mattress and assumed someone stole them. I get not wanting someone to wash your underwear – for a period of time – the nanny that was living with us would do our laundry. The idea of someone else washing my underwear initially bothered me — but I quickly got over it when I realized how nice it was to have someone wash, fold and put away my clothes.

I ask my Mom if she would like me to take her clothes home and do the laundry. She asks “Will you wash my underwear?” I respond “Of course” and she hands over the bread bag filled with underwear. I look back on many of the stories where my Mom pushed me away, even when she needed the help. However, I see the cost to earning her trust was the loss of my Dad and a marked decline in her cognitive abilities.Entrusted. 

Can we see your daughter alone?

hourglassAfter the Doctor visits with my dad, he comes out and asks if he can speak with me alone. My parents nod yes and I walk back to his office with the Social Worker.

The doctor shares that he’s concerned about getting us guardianship. The Social Worker reports that we hold a Durable Power of Attorney, and given that my mom seems to open to moving my dad into assisted living, she does not think we need to pursue that route.

I’m floating between giddy and nauseous. I’m encouraged that my mom actually suggested we move my dad into assisted living, but sick that we are on the precipice of this action.

I know that the change in the environment could easily progress my dad’s cognitive state.

Sadly, I know my mom won’t remember this conversation and it will take time and effort to help them navigate in the direction of assisted living.

This is the second time in a month where I’ve gone to a meeting with my parents and they are asked if the they approve that I meet with the person in private. When I come out of the meetings, they don’t ask what we discussed.

The Social Worker mentions that it just takes time. We all needed some time to adjust. I know I have changed and with a little time, so did my parents ability to accept and trust my support. Aged.