According to the New York Times, Robin Williams had indeed carefully laid out plans for his death. He had two separate trusts - one containing his wealth and entrusted to his children, and another containing the house in Tiburon and its "contents", for his current (and third) wife. Despite his carefully laid out plans, there is a battle ensuing over William's collections - which apparently include graphic novels, fossils, action figures, and theater masks. The Times reported that "these collections were carefully amassed by Mr. Williams over the course of his lifetime and were precious to him," court filings read.
The children, Zak, 31, Zelda 25, and Cody, 22 released a statement to NBC News saying they had been "barred from what had been their father's house". Williams' wife, Schneider claims someone entered the house and took belongings which she felt belonged to her.
In this particular instance, there is a certain salaciousness given that we are gawking at the private affairs of a celebrity, but this type of scenario is not uncommon. This is especially true given that this is a blended family and Mr. William's had multiple spouses. I often deal with litigation cases involving second or third spouses who do not see eye to eye with their step-children. What can complicate matters further is when some portion of the estate is the separate property of the spouses and some portion is the community property of the spouses.
Fighting over personal property can often occur because items have sentimental value. Here, the situation is different, because some of these items may have significant value since they are from Robin Williams' film career. Williams' wife is claiming that these assets were inappropriately removed from the house. If they were Trust assets, then the Trustee of her Trust is in charge of safe-guarding them. If the Trustee allowed assets to be stolen, then they would be in breach of their fiduciary duty to the beneficiary and could be removed or even punished with personal liability. You can learn more about a Trust here.
This story will be an interesting one to follow as it develops. Trust law can be complicated. The Law Offices of Matthew B. Talbot is here to help assist during what can be a trying time. Please call us at 925-322-1763 to set up a free 30 minute consultation.
Read more about the details of trusts here:
To read more, check out the Washington Post's article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/02/03/the-battle-for-robin-williamss-estate-erupts-between-kids-and-third-wife/, or the Daily Mail here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2937079/Robin-Williams-widow-Susan-Schneider-three-children-legal-battle-personal-property.html