Robin Williams’ Estate Battle Shows Importance of Being Specific

Sorting out the late Robin Williams’ estate is proving to be difficult for members of the beloved comedian’s family. His widow Susan Schneider Williams and his children from two previous marriages are at a disagreement regarding specific terms in the trust Williams’ created for his wife, recently leading Ms. Williams to file a petition to the Superior Court in San Francisco seeking clarity over the conditions of the trust in December 2014.

According to Ms. Williams calls for the couple’s home and its contents to fund the trust, however that blurs a line in regards to other terms of gifts the late actor left to his children Zelda, Cody, and Zachary. According to the petition, Mr. Williams left personal effects including jewelry, personal photos, clothing, memorabilia and awards to his children, however the specific nature of the wording used creates a glaring discrepancy in regards to the terms of the trust. Challenged specifics within the trust include the widow’s claims that memorabilia is limited to “items in the entertainment industry,” while the term “jewelry,” should not include her husband’s wrist watches. Countering in late January 2015, the children allege the opposite claims, highlighting easily overlooked ambiguity written in Mr. Williams’ final trust.

In cases such as these, multiple marriages and multiple homes, as well as children from different marriages can tend to complicate the nature of final arrangements, most often requiring the advice of an estate planner to iron out these crucial, yet small details. Labeling specific properties with broad verbiage can cause these gaps as well, whereas things like valuable art, fashion accessories, and personal collections can all be lumped into general categories such as “tangible property,” further complicating a resolution between family members.

Expert advice suggests not only working with an estate planner but also entertaining the idea of a qualified terminable interest property trust, as well as detailing certain small provisions of a will in a prenuptial agreement. In the case of Robin Williams’s trust, his children and his widow are seeking a court’s clarity and instruction as to how to proceed in the matter, although with a few measures of specificity, this situation could have been avoided, confirming the importance of precise and definitive wording.

Via: Investment News