It has been a year since the death of comedian Robin Williams, who committed suicide in his Northern California home on August 11, 2014. Sadly, his widow and his children from previous marriages remain entangled in a bitter dispute over his estate. According to an attorney for the children, Williams' trustees are distressed by the fact that Williams sought to avoid just this kind of dispute when he prepared his estate plan.
In his trust, Williams provided that his wife should have the use of their house for life and receive enough income from the trust to allow her to remain there. According to the children's lawyer, the biggest dispute in the ongoing estate battle is how much money should go into the trust to provide for her.
Another dispute centers around Williams' large collections of memorabilia and personal property, including autographed items and movie posters. Williams' widow has argued that she is entitled to any "knickknacks" unrelated to her husband's entertainment career. The children argue that these items were essential to Williams' creativity and should go to them under the language of the trust.
The judge in the case has given the parties some additional time to try to reach a settlement. They have apparently been able to resolve some issues, but others remain in dispute.
This litigation is a reminder that in estate planning it is important to make provisions for items of sentimental value, and not focus solely on the financial assets in the estate. Clear communication as to how these items are to be distributed can go a long way toward avoiding this kind of family legal battle.
Source: ETonline.com, "Robin Williams' Family Continues to Battle Over Comedian's Estate One Year After His Death," Raphael Chestang, Aug. 11, 2015