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By: Scott Grossman on August 27th, 2016

Family Of Robin Williams Argues In Court Over Personal Effects

On August 11, 2014, the world lost a brilliant entertainer when acclaimed comedian Robin Williams tragically took his life at the age of 63. Unfortunately, a battle over his estate is now taking place. The late actor had a will in which he left his estate in its entirety to a trust. The beneficiaries of that trust included his three children and his third wife. The couple had also signed a prenuptial agreement.

Why Robin Williams’ Beneficiaries Are At Odds

Approximately six months after his passing, the widow of Robin Williams and his children from previous marriages filed court documents that outline their disagreement over the money and property in the estate. Mr. Williams’ widow, Susan Schneider Williams, was his third wife. The two married in 2011. He had three children, Zak, Zelda, and Cody Williams, from his two prior marriages. The dispute involves more than just the wealth that Mr. Williams had accumulated over his 40-year acting career. It also involves cherished personal belongings including clothing, collectibles, bicycles, toys, and personal photographs.

Mrs. Williams argues that she is entitled to certain property from her late husband’s estate and that some of this property was removed from the home just days after Mr. Williams’ death. She also stated in her petition to the court that once she hired legal representation, certain home-related services were canceled. Under the terms of her husband’s trust, she was to receive the home and contents thereof, subject to certain restrictions. She was also to be provided with the funds to cover all of the costs related to the residence for her entire lifetime. She argues that this should be interpreted to include “all expenses associated with daily upkeep as well as unexpected renovations and improvements.” Further, Mrs. Williams alleges that she was given only three days’ notice by the trustees of the trust of their intention to remove certain items from the home that they believed had been bequeathed to the children under his estate plan.

The Children Respond

As part of their response, the children of the late actor argue that they have not been in the house, nor have they taken anything from it, since their father’s death. The children also counter that Mrs. Williams has continued to block access to the home, even from such parties as appraisers and others needed for the estate administration. They assert that their stepmother has “acted against Robin’s wishes by challenging the plans he so carefully made for his estate” by preventing them from receiving what their father wanted them to have under the terms of his estate plan. Mrs. Williams also reportedly allowed workers into the home to design and complete a $30,000 renovation. The children argue that she is petitioning for additional funds before the sub-trust that is to be established for her has even been funded. They further state that this “pre-mature” action is an indication her actions are being driven by greed.

With regard to the personal property in the estate, Mr. Williams’ trust left the following items to his children:

  1. Clothing
  2. Jewelry
  3. Personal photos taken prior to his marriage to Ms. Schneider
  4. Memorabilia and awards from the entertainment industry
  5. Additional property kept at a second home in Napa, California

Mrs. Williams argues in her court filings that she should be entitled to other items, such as the tuxedo that her late husband wore at their wedding and his personal collections of “knickknacks and other items” that are unrelated to his career. The children, however, argue that many of these items were not knickknacks, but in fact “fuel for his creativity.” They state that the collections were amassed over his lifetime and that the children shared in their father’s excitement over the items as he added to the collections.

What You Can Learn From This Celebrity Battle

As evidenced by the legal battle accompanying the administration of Mr. Williams’ estate, disputes do not always arise solely over money. In many cases, the issues at hand involve items that are of more personal than financial value to the potential recipients. In some cases, beneficiaries may need to pursue legal action in order to obtain items that they believe are rightfully theirs. If you are involved with the administration of an estate with potential disputes among the parties, we encourage you to check out our free guide, Winning the Inheritance Battle: the Ultimate Guide to California Trust and Probate Litigation.

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