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Family feud over Robin Williams’ estate

3rd February 2015

His death caused an outpouring of mourning last year and brought many debates about the stigma surrounding mental illness to the public consciousness. Alongside the tributes that followed and the celebrations of Robin Williams life and work, much media discussion surrounded the impact his two divorces might have had on his life and wallet, and thus on his state of mind. Now, further discontent has emerged, and this time it comes from within the Williams fold itself.

Not that it has anything to do with either of his former wives; rather, the dispute is between Williams widow, Susan Schneider, and his children, Zelda, Zachary and Cody, all of whom are from his previous marriages. Schneider has apparently filed papers at the San Francisco Superior Court to question the terms of a family trust that entails the late actors estate to his children, giving them access to memorabilia and other items from his private collection.

In his will, Robin Williams left his estate on trust for his children, which includes his memorabilia and other personal possessions, as well as a second home in Napa. There is also a second trust for his widow, named the Susan Trust, which included the matrimonial home in Tiburon, California and its contents.

According to media reports, Schneider is attempting to get the contents of the home she shared with Williams, such as clothing and jewellery, excluded from the terms of the trust after, she claims, the children unilaterally removed certain items shortly after Williams death.

However, James Wagstaffe, an attorney for Schneider claimed that she was only seeking clarification of the trusts terms. He told the press: This is not ugly…I would not say this is anticipated to be a highly contested proceeding.

Despite this, the dispute certainly looks to be personal. As so often occurs in family law, the small things take on enormous significance because they are charged with emotional importance. While it may seem of little material worth, a simple artefact from a life – or even a marriage – somehow becomes worthy of a litigious battle.

In their response to Schneiders filing, Williams children have stated that they think her actions premature and unwarranted and amount to an act of adding insult to a terrible injury. Those words do not seem to indicate that the legal dispute will be resolved pacifically, but it will be an interesting case to follow as it unfolds.

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