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Robin Williams's family heads to court over trust

Just a few months ago, the world learned the shocking news that Robin Williams passed away, leaving behind three adult children and his wife of almost three years. Many people in California are likely still in shock over the news of his death. However, less than five months after his death, his wife, Susan Schneider Williams, initiated proceedings asking the court to provide clarification on what appears to be a well-planned trust.

Williams reportedly owned two properties in California. Trusts that he established prior to his death detailed his wishes regarding these properties. His children are to have one of the properties, and Schneider Williams is to have the other -- the house in which they lived -- as well as the personal property within it, with some exclusions. Within the marital home, Williams' trust stipulates that some property, including his jewelry, personal photos, clothing, awards, memorabilia and other personal property, is to go to his children.

Although it is somewhat unusual for court proceedings to be initiated so soon after a death, especially when trustees have not yet had an opportunity to inventory assets, Schneider Williams is asking that a court interpret the stipulations of the trust. Specifically, she feels that the term 'memorabilia' should only include items related to his career, and his watch collection should not be considered jewelry. She is additionally arguing that she should receive items that are in storage, and that the children should not receive any items from the house in which she resides, although her requests are seemingly contrary to the explicit instructions in the trust.

Careful estate planning can generally help those in California who have recently lost loved ones to deal with the emotional ramifications of their losses. In some cases, a court may still be asked to become involved, regardless of the clarity of a person's wishes. However, in cases like Williams', when a carefully planned trust is in place that details a person's wishes regarding the distribution of his or her property, the length and cost of the litigation may be reduced.

Source: Forbes, "Robin Williams' Widow Starts A Court Battle -- But Why?", Danielle and Andy Mayoras, Feb. 3, 2015

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