Last Monday, a probate judge advised attorneys representing Robin Williams’ heirs to take an eight-week break to try and settle their differences. The comedian’s widow and three adult children have been arguing in probate court over the deceased actor’s money and property.
Williams’ widow, Susan Schneider Williams, wants her late husband’s tuxedo, which he wore during their wedding ceremony in 2011. She also wants the furniture in their Tiburon, California, home — the residence where the actor committed suicide last August. Further, there is disagreement over money intended to maintain the home, where Susan continues to reside.
A trustee for Williams’ estate and the attorney who is representing Williams’ children have expressed their disappointment that the late actor’s will had to go into probate proceedings.
One of the benefits of a well-planned estate with well-written trusts is the fact that it can be organized in such a way as to render probate proceedings unnecessary. Considering the time involved with probate, and the potentially enormous costs associated with court and legal fees, it is definitely preferable to skip the probate process whenever possible.
Perhaps if there is one thing that Florida estate planners can learn from the example of Williams’ probate proceedings is the fact that sometimes even the best laid plans go awry. Indeed, disagreements over deceased relative’s clothing, or a small knickknack that does not have anything but sentimental value, have been known to throw families into complete disagreement and turmoil. In this respect, Williams’ case can also serve as a reminder to Florida residents to be as specific as possible about personal property. Sometimes, it is not enough to merely designate who will receive what monetary assets, and it is necessary to itemize each tiny piece of property of the estate.
Source: Reuters, “Attorneys for Robin Williams’s heirs spar in court over estate,” Emmett Berg, March. 30, 2015