Robin Williams’ widow, Susan Schneider Williams, has entered into a legal debate with her late husband’s children over how to interpret the language of the actor’s estate documentation. The issue relates to certain pieces of memorabilia and other intangible property inside the home where the couple lived. Susan Schneider Williams filed a petition to ask the court for clarity on how the actor’s estate documentation treated items like his clothing, watches, collectibles, figurines, bicycles and other parts of his fortune.
Her petition, which was filed on Dec. 19, stated that the actor left her the home they shared in Tiburon in addition to the majority of the home’s contents. The petition also stated that Williams’ children took some of this property out of the house. Further, it said that she was frightened that Williams’ children might invade her home, and that “frenetic efforts” had been made “to interfere with her domestic tranquility.” The petition also stated that Williams’ home in another city had been bequeathed to his three children; however, it said that specific personal items had not been allotted to them.
A lawyer representing the children filed a response late last month claiming that their stepmother was purposefully trying to confuse the language of the estate documents so that she could take control of a larger portion of the estate. The children’s response also stated that they were “heartbroken” by their stepmother’s petition.
The case of Robin Williams’ estate, which included various trust documents to transfer his assets to his wife and children, might cause one to wonder about the sanctity of a trust document and how safe it will be from litigation after one has died. The truth is, no legal document, contract, trust or other agreement is bulletproof against being challenged in court. Nevertheless, if a trust is intelligently designed and clearly worded, it will hopefully be able to withstand any challenges to its authority in court. Furthermore, the clearer a trust document is, the less likelihood there will be of it being challenged and/or successfully challenged after one has died.
Source: Reuters, “Robin Williams widow, children tussle over actor’s estate” Curtis Skinner, Feb. 03, 2015