Photo: London Telegraph
Over a year has passed since the tragic suicide of actor Robin Williams, and it would seem that the remnants of his family are no closer to resolving outstanding estate issues in San Francisco County Superior Court. Susan Schneider Williams, the deceased comedian's wife, is pitted against his children - Zach, Cody, and Zelda Williams. At stake are potentially millions' worth of income, but beyond money, we also shouldn't discount the emotional element that makes cases like these so difficult to negotiate.
By far the largest bone of contention in Williams' estate matter is his Tiburon, California, residence. While Williams expressed his wish that Susan stay to live in the house in the event of his death, he entrusted eventual inheritance of the property to his three children from his previous marriage. And although the Williams children will own the home, Susan will be responsible for its upkeep, according to conditions of the trust. The property has been valued and the amount necessary for maintenance designated, but Williams' widow wants to know how attorneys reached that figure, asking for clarification from the court. Since Susan will be the one paying everyday costs associated with maintaining the house, that seems like a legitimate request.
Yet from the perspective of the Williams children, Susan is seeking more money and a greater portion of the trust than what their father had originally intended for her. Trustees already determined that the house would ultimately go to Zach, Cody, and Zelda, but Susan will be allotted a full half of all trust assets, with the remainder split even between all of Williams' five children (the first three from Williams' previous marriage plus the two Schneider-Williams children). In addition, there are a number of other items in dispute, including bicycles, watches, clothing, and memorabilia.
After granting a previous extension to allow for settlement by June 29th, the judge called for parties to reach a resolution this week - on August 28th. Since there's already been one delay, the likelihood of a decent compromise between Susan and the Williams children looks less likely with every passing day, thus making litigation all the more probable. Here's hoping that both sides can reach an agreement before it's too late - everyone in the family has had enough tragedy and hardship already. In the aftermath of loss, our emotions must be directed away from fighting with each other and toward reconciliation. It's a hard road, but a simple truth.