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Famed actor and comic's estate plan now a public battle

The widow says that the stepkids are unlawfully claiming personal property that was bestowed upon her. The children counter that many of the assets claimed by their stepmother belong to them and that they "are heartbroken" that she has acted against their deceased father's wishes. The trustees have weighed in with comments underscoring their power to act, which they say is being undermined. An attorney for the trustees says that what has become an acrimonious spat should have remained a purely private matter.

And the judge? He just wants the at-odds parties to work things out as best they can informally. If they can't, a June 1 court date looms.

Welcome to the notable estate planning battle that has embroiled the family of celebrated actor and comedian Robin Williams, who passed away last autumn.

As we have noted in prior select posts, the details -- and, sometimes the battles -- relating to celebrities' estate plans are often broadly instructive, with the Williams case certainly being no exception.

An attorney for the trustees overseeing a trust that Williams established prior to his death says that Williams would have rued the public spectacle that has now placed a strong spotlight on his estate planning particulars.

Williams "was an intensely private person who had carefully construed his estate plan to keep it out of public view," says that lawyer.

Mission, well, not accomplished.

What has happened is that Williams' widow and three children are sparring in a who-gets-what tiff over personal items, most centrally those classified as "memorabilia."

The widow has filed a petition in the matter, which has resulted in the upcoming court date. The trustees call that petition both "premature" and "irrelevant," given what they say is their "final and absolute authority" to determine asset ownership and distribute property accordingly.

If the heirs can't work things out informally, the privacy-obsessed celebrity's estate plan will soon be enmeshed in a decidedly public quarrel.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Judge asks Robin Williams' widow, children to settle estate battle outside courtroom," Veronica Rocha, March 30, 2015

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