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Robin Williams’ Estate Problems

Posted on: February 20th, 2015
robin williams estate problemsFollowing the death of Robin Williams last year, our estate planning attorneys showcased a privacy issue that surfaced in the media surrounding Williams’ estate. While the estate appeared to be structured carefully with his spouse and each child provided for separately, his surviving spouse is bringing estate conflicts to court.

Trusts are generally confidential tools that privately distribute assets to beneficiaries without requiring that the assets pass through probate. In Williams’ estate, separate trusts were set up for his wife Susan Schneider Williams and his three children. The issues currently in dispute involve provisions addressing items in two properties left in his estate. The trust clearly leaves one property (including all furniture and furnishings) in Tiburon, California for Susan’s lifetime use. Separate provisions leave the real property (and all contents) in Napa Valley in trust for the benefit of his three children. The provision in question is one that leaves his children all “clothing, jewelry, personal photos taken prior to his marriage to Susan” and “memorabilia and awards in the entertainment industry” located at either property. 

Susan filed a petition to have courts clarify the definitions of “memorabilia” and “jewelry” as conflicts have developed over a watch collection and other personal effects that are stored off premises. 

Generally trust disputes are handled privately. By taking the dispute to court, Susan has made public certain details that would have remained confidential. Williams took great care to maintain a properly structured estate plan, and elected a neutral party as a trustee to prevent family conflicts from arising. 

Could the dispute happening with his estate have been planned for in a better way? Estate conflicts can happen to anyone, even with up-to-date and solid estate plans. Learn more about estate planning and how to minimize family conflicts.
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