Personal property can be, well, so personal. The family of late comedy legend Robin Williams is in a heated battle over the personal items Robin Williams left behind. The estate fight pits Robin Williams’ widow, Susan Williams, against his three children from a prior marriage, Zachary, Zelda, and Cody.
While we do not know exactly what personal items they are arguing over, the Trustees of Williams’ Trust claim they have compiled a list of over 900 items on a 23-page spreadsheet. The Trustees claim that they have “final and absolute” powers to decide who gets what, but Susan Williams seems unpleased by their decisions. In court filings made last Friday (August 14, 2015) all sides reported their status to the Court, with the children asking the Court to order Susan Williams to hand over the personal items within seven days.
What may be surprising is that even though the trustee are given “final and absolute” power to decide, that power still must be exercised in good faith. In other words, no Trustee, no matter how broad their powers, has unfettered control over Trust property. This “good faith” standard may be enough for Susan Williams to argue for a greater share of the personal items.
Also at issue is the amount of money that should be set aside to maintain the Williams’ estate, where Susan is allowed to live for the rest of her life. Under the Trust terms, the estate must be maintained at the same standard as the couple enjoyed while Robin Williams was still living. The parties claim to all agree that the Trust needs to have money to provide for maintenance, but the amount required as a set aide is still at issue.
The Trustees of the Robin Williams Trust are asking the Court to dismiss Susan’s petitions because all of the issues have already been addressed, according to the Trustees. But that may not be entirely true from Susan Williams’ perspective. The division of personal property, especially items that occupy Susan Williams’ home, can be a sensitive issue. And the amount of money to safely provide for care on Susan’s home can also be a continuing source of disagreement.
Luckily for Susan Williams, the Probate Court is a court of equity in California, meaning that the Court has a wide amount of discretion to make rulings that benefit all of the beneficiaries in this case.
Check in for more updates on the Williams estate as the case progresses.