Posted on 5.2.15 by Michael Smoult
Rich famous film stars are no different to any other in life or in death. News has just been released that after the sad passing of Robin Williams his Widow, his wife of only three years, and his three children, from previous marriages, are beginning a dispute over his estate. Unfortunately the headlines show a lot of what we hear in practise once a loved one has passed away – “money grabbing” and “greedy”.
At the moment it appears the dispute relates only to the personal possessions and how he wanted them to be distributed. The accusation is that his widow has removed some of the belongings that Mr Williams wanted to go to his children. Again, unfortunately this is not an uncommon action, as we do hear this from clients in our meetings. The issue in practise is that it is very difficult to prove removal and that the belonging was not sold/ given away/ taken away prior to death or it is very expensive and timely to try and recover the item(s).
Mr Williams died with a Will, but the dispute centres on the items Williams kept at two homes and in storage, including the actor’s collection of watches and the Oscar statuette he won in 1998 for Good Will Hunting. Clearly the possessions will be very valuable and sentimental.
Mr Williams’ widow has requested that the contents of the home she shared with her husband be excluded from the jewellery, memorabilia and other items her husband said his children should have: but Mr Williams’ children do not agree. They do not believe that this is in keeping with the wording of his will and say that there should be no limits placed on the items to which they are entitled.
From the outside looking in, it seems that the will left all property to the children but that perhaps the wording is not 100% clear or that his widow does not simply not agree with it. The strong advice to executors at the outset of any estate, is that they should make sure they secure the property as soon as practicably possible post death. They should also ensure that any items listed in the will as gifts are guarded and cannot be removed or sold by anyone else. An inventory should be created and valuations made by the appropriately qualified party. Hopefully if Executors do this there should not be a dispute.
The case has just had the proceedings issued is USA and we shall await a more detailed outcome.