While a will can help a family in New York avoid a legal battle after a loved one passes away, this legal document cannot always prevent against a problem. When world-famous actor Robin Williams died, his will and trust dictated that his estate go to his widow and his three children from different marriages.
Susan Schneider, William’s widow, lived with him at a home in Paradise Cay, and William’s trust allows Schneider to reside in the couple’s house while her expenses are paid for from a fund created by the late actor’s trust. Most of the possessions from the Paradise Cay house near Tiburon go to Schneider, but select personal items were left to the children as gifts in William’s trust. Some of the items intended for the children included jewelry, personal photos and awards, and a Napa Valley home last listed at $29.5 million and its contents was also left to his children.
Though it seemed that all his belongings and assets were accounted for, the family went to court when Schneider filed a suit in January 2015 alleging that the children wanted items from the couple’s house that were not willed to them. On March 30, a judge gave the family until June 1 to come to an agreement.
It seems that Williams wanted his spouse and children to have his property and personal items, but one usually does not have total freedom when dividing an estate. For example, many states have forced heirship laws that will not allow one to disinherit a spouse and sometimes children. An attorney might be able to help one ensure that any estate planning documents are in accordance with New York laws, and a mediator could help a family resolve issues with a will or trust out of court.